Posted by: learnsignlanguage | April 11, 2011

Auslan An Introduction to Sign Language

There’s a secret language known amongst some select individuals in Australia. It’s a unique language with more colloquialisms and odd phrasings than any slang or pig latin that you can think of. It is “spoken” amongst an estimated 14,000 individuals with 2 established dialects, the Northern dialect in NSW and Qld and the Southern variety throughout the other states. It even enjoys its own exclusive community television channel, Channel 31 in Melbourne features specially developed programming, produced by volunteers.

This is Auslan, Australian sign language.

How is AUSLAN different?

Auslan has been officially recognised as the preferred language in the deaf community, emerging as part of the common instruction program for deaf children in the 1990s. Contrary to popular belief, sign language is not derived from its national spoken counterpart – so Auslan has practically no resemblance to spoken English. In fact, individuals from different nations with a common spoken language may have trouble communicating with each other as the gestures and structural formation can differ greatly.

Auslan is a derivative of BANZSL, which is the parent language for British Sign Language and New Zealand Sign Language, so these three languages have very similar patterns. Meanwhile, Auslan has borrowed some of its words from American Sign Language (ASL), especially those relating to technical terms. Outside of this, the signs between ASL and Auslan can be very different and unrecognisable between speakers – for example, ASL uses a one handed signed alphabet while the BANZSL varieties all use two handed letter signs.

Auslan and most other signed languages are unique in the way sentences are structured. For instance, there are no “state of being” verbs (am, are, is) in Auslan but they have been incorporated into signed English. Signed English is growing less popular as most individuals within the deaf community prefer to communicate in Auslan.

Auslan and hearing implants

For many hearing impaired individuals, hearing aids can significantly improve their hearing abilities, while cochlear implants are known to restore partial hearing abilities and has revolutionised the treatment for hearing loss in children. However, many individuals who do acquire cochlear implants may still prefer to use sign language to communicate especially during the initial adjustment period. Meanwhile, family members and loved ones of the deaf may often learn Auslan and use it as a preferred method of communicating within the home.

Cochlear implants are revolutionary ear implants that can help restore hearing to individuals with sensorineural impairment. For more information on hearings aids and communities for the deaf, visit the Cochlear website.

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