Auslan is the native sign language for Australian signing people. There are many other sign languages used internationally. Australian Sign Language differs from the sign language used by signing people in other countries in linguistic structure and grammar similarly to oral languages between nations, say English and Italian for example.
Most Auslan users are children and adults who need it as their main means of communication; however everyone else who shares their lives may also use Auslan. These include the families, carers, friends and professionals such as teachers, speech and language therapists, social workers, playgroup staff, college lecturers, instructors, nurses, and psychiatrists.
...more about Auslan vs. other sign languages
Baby sign refers to the use of sign language with pre-verbal babies and toddlers. It has become increasingly popular in recent years with hearing babies, as hearing parents begin to discover the advantages Deaf parents have known for some time, that comes from having a 4 or 6 month old who is able to communicate their needs, such as hunger, nappy and thirst.
...more about baby sign can be found under our Baby Sign-About Page
Key signing refers to a semi-adoption of sign language where only the key words in each sentence are signed. Key-Signing is often the first step to learning AUSLAN for both non-signing adults and children. It is often used in teaching sign to Pre and Primary School children and forms a large part of the Auslan as LOTE curriculum in formative years.
...more about Key signing, its uses and applications
Makaton Signing refers to a symbols and key sign language programme for the teaching of communication, language and literacy skills to people with communication and learning difficulties. It is limited in application and is usually only utilised for a short time. Makaton is NOT A LANGUAGE, and was developed for use with an oral based language to assist in the adoption of the oral language.
...more about Makaton's Signing System
Signed English is a word-for-word translation from spoken English to signs. It is laborious and has been found to be ineffective as a language and teaching tool. However elements of Signed English are often adopted with signing children in the lead up to reading, to assist in the exact translation of words in written form.
...more about Signed English
We have found the easiest way to introduce yourself to sign is to first learn some "keysigns" for everyday things. Many signs quickly become obvious, you may recognise them from your own natural gestures, so remembering "Keysigns" can be easy!
If you are wanting to sign with adult signers then it is then a good idea to learn the Australian Sign Alphabet, so if you ever don't know the sign for something, you can resort to fingerspelling. A tip with fingerspelling that is rarely emphasised is that the vowels , 'a', 'e', 'i', 'o' and 'u' are the thumb and fingers on one hand, pointed to by the other hand.
You can look-up signs online via this website and view signs by category. So keep practicing and expanding your sign knowledge. Try and find other people who sign you can practise this method of communication with. Soon you'll be able to hold reasonable conversation in sign and will begin playing with it's own little puns, humour and slang.
By now you may feel you are ready to think about doing a course in sign. In the past these have largely only been available at the more serious level, usually through a Uni or TAFE. We are pleased to report that recent years have seen dramatic increases in the number of people learning sign language. As a result you can often find "beginner" or "First" signer courses at many local community centres, adult learning centres and alike. There are also a number of tutors specialising in classes for "newbies", which are more customised to the needs of participants.
Perhaps you feel you are ready for a more advanced course, where you can expand your range and understanding of sign, and come to understand the logic behind the grammar of the language. If you wish to continue learning sign from here, the most obvious step is to become a qualified interpreter. These are in high demand, so pay rates are well in excess of a suffering teacher's wage. Still higher rates are paid for interpreters with specialised AUSLAN knowledge, such as medical, legal or engineering terms.
In Australia we use AUSLAN, AUstralian Sign LANguage. AUSLAN differs to the sign language used within other countries. Within the UK they use BSL (British Sign Language), Americans use ASL (American Sign Language), in New Zealand they use NZSL and so on. Auslan is a visual language, with no oral form. It uses hand shapes and movements, facial expressions and body expressions to express a visual means of communication. Each sign is made up of 5 main parts; Handshape, Orientation, Location, Movement and facial Expression.
Each sign language differs in handshapes used, location of signing (signing space), grammatical structure and alike. A sentence in English is often shorter when translated into Auslan. For example �I�m going to catch the bus at 8:30 this morning� would be �Me catch bus 8:30 am today�. In contrast, 'Signed English' (discussed below) is estimated to take 1.5 to 2.5 times as long to sign as the oral sentence would be to say!
Auslan evolved from British Sign Language (BSL) but also includes influences from ASL, Irish sign language and indigenous signs (learned from our own indigenous aboriginal sign languages). Sign usage can vary across Australia based on these regional influences and the natural and rapid evolution of the language on a regional basis. It is hoped that the advent of websites such as this site and the use of video conferencing and alike will assist signing people to communicate new and variant signs across Australia as quickly as they evolve.
The recent introduction of Auslan as a lote subject throughout an increasing number of Australian schools will also bring rise to a dramatically increased number of Australians utilising and facilitating the development and communication of this truly beautiful and versatile language.
The number of Signing People in Australia is difficult to accurately ascertain. Untouchably signing people are majoritively members of our Deaf community but also includes those members of our community with DOWNS, Speech dyspraxia, Cerebral Palsy, Autism, ADHD and varying levels of hearing impairment. As a result the parents and extended family, carers, therapists and other professionals, and of course educators of signing people also become signing people, to varying degrees.
Interested in learning Auslan?
Please do be aware that a number of BSL and ASL resources have entered the Australian market place and often DO NOT IDENTIFY WHICH SIGN LANGUAGE THEY USE. Some may even include terms like 'Australian Edition', or based on 'Australian Sign Language'. Please do check the authenticity of the images used before learning them. All products distributed by Bilby Publishing have been authenticated by members of the Australian Deaf community, Translator association, or sign language associated education facilities.
Signed English, like Makaton and keysign, is not a language. Signed English is a word-for-word translation from spoken English to signs, augmented with finger-spelling for the end of words.
Signed English shares or borrows Auslan signs wherever possible, in fact in Australia the 'Signed English' system was developed utilising Victorian based Auslan.
Regrettably Signed English remains the most common language taught to Deaf children. Research in the area has been extensive and it is obvious to anyone attempting to provide a signing child equal access to information within the classroom that Signed English is quite clearly a less concise language than Auslan. In fact one study indicated that to sign translate communication within the average day within a 'preschool class' in Signed English would take 2 ½ sessions. In other words, to utilise Signed English in the classroom is to limit the child to only 40% of the average class communication and thus only 40% of the input received by their non-signing peers. Signed English requires a dramatic deterioration in the rate of speech to sign at the same time.
Signed English is entirely different from Auslan, although it does borrow many signs from Auslan and this is where some confusion occurs between the two. Signed English is English, a manually coded English, so it is English delivered in a different format and is mainly used in education settings. It is not a sign language as it is not a language separate from English but a signed form of English. Signed English uses English grammar and syntax so that it uses a sign for word system.