Japanese Sign Language FingerSpelling

JSL Finger Spelling of Hiragana and Katakana

JSL finger spelling photo.png

How do I learn Japanese Sign Language? 

JSL Fingerspelling Hiragana Katakana part 1

Many people are interested in learning about Japanese Sign Language. Especially after the Anime movie “A Silent Voice” was released in the U.S. and in Europe. Here is a video that shows each JSL sign that was used in the movie “A Silent Voice”.

If you aren’t able to attend a local Japanese Sign Language circle (手話サークル shuwa sa-kuru) in Japan, take a JSL class at Gallaudet University or meet with Deaf Japanese people, the next best thing to do is watch videos on YouTube and familiarize yourself with the basics.

Start with learning Japanese Sign Language Fingerspelling. The Japanese ‘alphabet’ is actually called Kana and there are 46 basic characters. This is a lot more than the English alphabet.

To make things even more challenging, there are 2 different sets of Kana:

  1. Hiragana - あいうえお (more curvy lines)

  2. Katakana.- アイウエオ (more straight / angular lines)

Learn more about Hiragana and Katakana. And then there’s also Kanji (Chinese characters) that makes Japanese particularly challenging for people studying Japanese. It’s even difficult for native Japanese people.

Luckily, Japanese Sign Language fingerspelling does not have a distinction between Hiragana and Katakana. There is only 1 hand shape for the あ or ア.

Check out the JSL fingerspelling for all 46 Kana:

At first, you will notice some similar hand shapes with American Sign Language fingerspelling. Here are some examples:

  • あ=A い=I う=U え=E お=O か=K さ=S は=H や=Y ら=R わ=W

If you already know ASL, it will be easier for you to get the correct hand shape after a few times. If you already know how to write Hiragana and Katakana, it will be easier for you to know what is the next kana. However, if you are starting from zero, you’ll have to figure out which is easier for you to remember, either the JSL or writing out Hiragana and Katakana. My guess is that the JSL will be much easier to memorize.

After you’ve watched the video at .50x speed and practiced memorizing all 46 Kana, you may try to improve your JSL fingerspelling by spelling out Japanese names, anime titles and food. For example, try the finger spelling for:

  • きむら (Kimura)

  • ナルト (Naruto)

  • トマト(Tomato)

To sign the hyphen ー, as in my name Danny ダニー, in your fingerspelling area, you just use your index and imitate the “ET Phone Home” gesture and then bend your wrist and point your index finger down (don’t move or bend your arm).

Continue to practice until you have memorized all 46 JSL fingerspelling hand shapes.