Auslan is a language that needs to make sense, visually. In the last lesson, ‘egg’ is an example of a sign that is altered depending on context, in order to make sense, visually.
Auslan signs tend to be based on what things look like, rather than how they sound. In English, some words have multiple meanings, such as the word “cross”. It can refer to the shape of a cross, to feeling cross, to crossing the road. Each of these contexts is signed differently in Auslan.
Consider the following words in different contexts:
- Train (can mean to practise, or to catch a train)
- Seesaw (you need to show this visually – don’t sign the word for ‘see’ followed by ‘saw’/’see in-the-past’)
- Park (this can be a playground or a place to park your car)
- Can of drink (don’t sign the word ‘can’ (the opposite of ‘can’t’) – instead use the specific sign for soft drink)
- Wake up (with this, you show your eyes opening – there is no need to add the sign for ‘up’)
When you are signing, stop regularly and ask yourself if your signs make sense, visually. A lot of English words and phrases don’t make sense visually, and they need to be altered when you are signing.
Jokes in English that are funny because of a play on words often don’t make sense in Auslan. Jokes in Auslan often rely on visual ideas and facial expression to convey humour.