Japanese Sign Language (JSL), to me, is truly amazing. I am fascinated even by the Japanese language, so this signed language really interests me.
JSL is the sign language used in Japan…
Bet you didn’t guess that.
Just like how Japanese is completely different from English, JSL is completely different from ASL. For one, JSL uses mouthing to distinguish between various signs. ASL uses mouth movements a little bit, but not mouthing to this extent.
Fingerspelling is also used more in JSL than it is in ASL. Finger writing (drawing Japanese characters in the air) is sometimes used in JSL. Finger writing is never used in ASL.
JSL also uses the topic-comment pattern of sentence structure that is used in spoken Japanese as well as American Sign Language.
However, even though JSL borrows heavily from spoken Japanese, it is not a signed form of Japanese–it is still its own language.
Some signs from JSL are shared with Korea and Taiwan’s sign languages. This is probably due to the cultural exchanges during the Japanese occupation period.
If you are interested in learning some JSL, we recommend these free resources (these sites are mostly in Japanese or require you to download the Japanese font):
- Japanese Association of Sign Linguistics (in Japanese and requires font)
- JSL Lessons and Dictionary (in Japanese and requires font)
- ITEC’s Online JSL Course (requires font)
Even though you’re having fun with JSL, don’t forget to learn ASL too!