Auslan’s growing popularity in schools
Since the beginning of the pandemic, which shone a spotlight on our Auslan interpreters in the media, more and more schools have shown interest in including Auslan in their curriculum. However, there is a real shortage of skilled Auslan teachers. In a perfect world, native Auslan users would be the ones in the classroom teaching the language, even if it’s as an Education Support Staff. If your school is looking at teaching Auslan, keep an open mind about employing a native Auslan user in the classroom with a registered teacher to work alongside with. This will ensure the language is taught correctly and with great knowledge.
It’s important to keep in mind that unlike other languages such as Japanese, French, and Indonesian, which all have large populations speaking and writing the language, Auslan belongs to a small minority with very few resources to protect the language. This means we are reliant on people sharing and using the language correctly, and not ‘tainting’ Auslan with mixed Signed English. It is a very large concern in the community that with more inexperienced Auslan teachers outnumbering experienced and fluent Auslan teachers, pure Auslan will disappear. You can help us by ensuring you are well trained, engaged with the community, and employing Deaf people to be language models in the classroom or register for our PDs to provide you with knowledge and understanding of this beautiful and rich language.
Where you can get your Diploma in Auslan
La Trobe University
National Careers Institute (SA, WA)
Deaf Services/Connect NSW
Beyond lexicalised signs
Lexicalised signs are signs recognised by the community and linguists as official signs. People new to Auslan tend to believe there is a sign for every single English word though, and this is not the case. Understanding how to comprehend and use depicting signs (entity, handling, SASS) and constructed action is vital to gain full access to the language. These features allow the signer to create visual descriptions with various handshapes to resemble a tree, animal, object, person or even large crowds, depending on the unique and individual context shared by the signer. Emphasis on distance, weight, texture and even level of annoyance is conveyed through meaningful facial expressions and pacing. The same sign for ‘rain’ can be used in many different ways to emphasise whether it’s trickling down or absolutely bucketing down, merely by adjusting facial expression and movement. This trait in sign is quite often misunderstood or not even known by many people new to the language.
The importance of NMFs
Auslan is a visual language that goes beyond knowing vocabulary. It’s expressive and all about using space, movement, non-manual features (NMFs) to express and share information and stories. The phrase ‘Dog, you have’ can be expressed as a statement, question, in disbelief, in surprise, or uncertainty, depending on what facial expression is used. Facial expressions and body language enhance signs in a meaningful way.
Most common questions we get is what’s the sign for ‘is’, ‘at’, ‘to’, ‘for’, but this is coming from the belief that Auslan follows the English word order- it doesn’t. One of the grammar structures is WH-questions at the end:
Time Markers– Time goes first
– Tomorrow, I will fly (to) Brisbane
– Next week, school finish(es)
– Yesterday, I finish visit shop (you will notice there’s not tense difference when signing. In formal context, we use ‘finish’ for past tense, and ‘will’ for future tense)
For more resources on syntax and vocabulary based learning activities, you can purchase our Teaching Guide: Syntax, vocabulary, sequences, assessment.
English: there are lots of cats!
Auslan: Cats, cats, cat, cats! *sign in different spaces to indicate cats all over the place*
Manner– Show don’t tell.
Some signs can be modified to express information. For example we show if it’s raining lightly or heavily by modifying movement and facial expressions.
For more examples, purchase our Teaching Guide- Show, don’t tell.