Category Archives: Learn Auslan Online

Learn Auslan – Frequently used little words #2

Here are some more signs that are commonly used in conversation in Auslan:

  • nice
  • better
  • best
  • brilliant
  • outstanding
  • terrible
  • professional
  • address
  • letter

This post is part of my free online Auslan course. See the rest of the course here.

To learn more about what it is really like to be Deaf, details about the Deaf community and how Auslan is used by Deaf people, read my book, Future Girl.

Learn Auslan – Phrases

Signs in Auslan don’t always correspond directly with English words. This video contains useful Auslan signs that encompass a whole English phrase.

  • finally – notice the lip pattern here: ‘pah.’ This sign is used frequently – if someone is late and has just arrived, you could sign ‘pah’.
  • now I get it – the lip pattern here is also ‘pah.’ This sign is used for a moment of enlightenment, when you have suddenly understood something.
  • good riddance – the lip pattern here is ‘sha.’ You can do this sign in the direction of the thing that you are glad to be rid of.
  • responsibility – notice the American letter ‘R’ is the basis for this sign. This sign has been borrowed from ASL – American sign language. The borrowing of signs is very common and it’s helpful to know the American alphabet for this reason.
  • not my responsibility,
  • not yet. In English we often separate the ‘yet’ and put it at the end of the sentence. Eg, ‘I haven’t eaten yet.’ In Auslan, you cannot separate the ‘yet’ from the not’. You might say: EAT ME NOT-YET.
  • poor you. Add an expression of sympathy to your face for this sign!
  • go to bed. One hand forms the bed covers, while the other hand represents the legs of a person going under the covers.
  • get up. Completing the idea of the previous sign, one hand represents the doona while the other one shows a person standing up.
  • stuffed. This sign is used when something is completely exhausted, or ‘fucked’. But it’s not rude, the way ‘fucked’ is in English. You use it for an appliance that is damaged beyond repair, or for a person who is exhausted. In the video, I also demonstrate changing the direction of this sign to show myself as exhausted.
  • day off. It’s easy to think of this sign as starting with a nose-blow, an illness that can lead to a day off.

This post is part of my free online Auslan course. See the rest of the course here.

To learn more about what it is really like to be Deaf, details about the Deaf community and how Auslan is used by Deaf people, read my book, Future Girl.

Learn Auslan – Role Shift

Role shift is used to describe interactions between two or more people or animals.

Its most common use is when describing a conversation you have overseen between two other people, or a conversation you have had with someone previously. The idea is that you become one speaker, and adopt their position, facial expression and energy, then you say what they were saying, then you change to become the other speaker, with a different position and facial expression, and sign as if you were them.

There are a number of rules associated with the use of role shift, and these may seem very unnatural at first, but become easier with practise.

Warning: role shift is an advanced concept and takes a lot of practise. Here are some rules:

Identify each person first – use classifiers to locate the people in space and say who they each are.

Move shoulders – after you have identified the people, shift your shoulders to “become” each person as they speak.

Use eye gaze – when you are speaking as one of the people you have identified, show them looking at the other person. If the other person is taller, look up, if the other person is lying on the floor, look down.

Use facial expression – show the expression on the faces of each of the people who are talking. Make the contrast between the two people as clear as possible.

Using role shift, you should never use the signs for “he said” and “she asked”. Identify the people you are talking about and then become them, as they converse.

Watch the video to see the following conversation between a mother and her daughter who has just arrived home late.

Mother: (angrily) Where have you been?

Daughter: (defensive) Out.

Mother: I’ve been waiting up for you, worrying! It’s after twelve o’clock!

Daughter: It wasn’t my fault. I rang for a taxi but it didn’t come. I had to wait for another one.

Mother: Well next time, ring me!

Daughter: (as if her mother is being over protective) Alright.

Now have a go at it yourself. Try using role shift to describe a conversation. Then look over the rules and ask yourself whether you remembered to follow all of them.

Chances are, the first few times you’ll forget at least one rule, if not most of them. Try the conversation again, this time with the rules added.

Practise practise practise – that’s the only way you’ll get the hang of role shift.

This post is part of my free online Auslan course. See the rest of the course here.

To learn more about what it is really like to be Deaf, details about the Deaf community and how Auslan is used by Deaf people, read my book, Future Girl.

Learn Auslan Level 2

Welcome to Auslan Level 2

Welcome to level 2 of my online Auslan course for beginners. If you have made it this far, and can remember most of the vocab from level 1, then you are acing out and can probably already have some pretty good conversations with Deaf people. The signs you learn here will fill in some gaps and help bring your signing up a notch.

If you haven’t studied level 1 yet, head there to start learning Auslan and to find out answers to frequently asked questions such as which hand to use when signing.

Please remember that the signs I’m teaching you are the signs I used in Melbourne, Australia. Signs vary a lot around Australia, so people will be sure to tell you that some of the signs I’ve shown you are ‘wrong’. But my aim here is to help you communicate effectively with Deaf people, and if you use a sign from another state, or a sign they don’t usually use, chances are they’ll still understand you.

You’ll notice a dramatic change in the videos for Level 2. You asked me to sign slower (I hope I did that!) and to repeat my signs. I’ve signed each word twice, so you can watch the first time, and do it with me the second time. I hope that makes it easier for you. If they are still too quick, watch the video on YouTube and use the settings cog to change the speed to 0.25.

The other big change in the videos is how amazingly professional they look.  This is thanks to Joanne Donahoe-Beckwith, who kindly volunteered to film the videos for me. She’s a pro, as you can see, and even created a studio set up with beautiful lighting to make the videos the best they can be. She also subtitled and formatted all the videos for me, saving heaps of time. Many, many thanks to Joanne for her generosity.

Now.. let’s get started. Here are some signs that will be useful in conversation:

  • alive
  • live (e.g. to live in a house)
  • dead
  • sick
  • cuddle/hug
  • important
  • true
  • shh
  • quiet
  • sit
  • stand
  • trouble

This post is part of my free online Auslan course. See the rest of the course here.

To learn more about what it is really like to be Deaf, details about the Deaf community and how Auslan is used by Deaf people, read my book, Future Girl.

A bit of love for you

What is a language if you don’t know how to tell someone you love them?  In this video I sign, ‘You are beautiful. I love you.’  Then I wave goodbye, and as I wave, I change my handshape into the American sign for ‘I love you’.

This post is part of my free online Auslan course. See the rest of the course here.

To learn more about what it is really like to be Deaf, details about the Deaf community and how Auslan is used by Deaf people, read my book, Future Girl.

Learn Auslan – American fingerspelling

I am often asked if sign language is universal.  It’s not.  Auslan came to Australia with English convict Betty Steele, who signed BSL (British sign language).  With years of isolation, Auslan and BSL have both evolved, so that while the languages are similar, they are now quite different.  The Americans got their sign language from France, and French sign language looks very different to Auslan, as the fingerspelling and many of the hand signs are done with one hand instead of two.

If you put two signing people in the same room who don’t know each others’ language, they will work out how to communicate with each other much faster than two hearing/speaking people would.  When I bumped into a group of Deaf women in France one time, despite me not knowing any French sign language and them not knowing any English or Auslan, we worked out how to communicate quite quickly.  Within half an hour we had moved on to abstract concepts like planned obsolescence.

Back to American fingerspelling… in America there is a larger population of Deaf people than in Australia.  They even have a Deaf university.  This means that their language has more opportunities to evolve than ours, and although some people are against this practise, in Auslan we often borrow signs from ASL (American sign language).  Also, several of these borrowed signs, and signs that are considered proper Auslan, are based on handshapes that come from the one-handed American alphabet.  It’s handy to know the alphabet in order to familiarise yourself with these shapes.

Some people who use Auslan will  spell with American sign language if they have only one hand available, because the other is busy holding a drink or something else.  However, when I went to America, I discovered that the actual American letter T is different from the way Australians sign T when they think they are using American fingerspelling!  There may be other letters that are different.  This video shows my best guess for the American alphabet, and the way my friends and I use American fingerspelling:


In the video there are two variations for the letter T – the first one shows how American people actually sign it.  The second one shows how Australians tend to sign it.

This post is part of my free online Auslan course. See the rest of the course here.

To learn more about what it is really like to be Deaf, details about the Deaf community and how Auslan is used by Deaf people, read my book, Future Girl.

Learn Auslan – Impolite stuff

No language is complete without swear words, toilet words, genitals and sex words. I’ve grouped these together in this video so that parents who are studying this course with their children can decide whether to show them or not.  This doesn’t mean that I think certain body parts are ‘rude’ or ‘impolite’.  The sign for ‘toilet’ is in here – that isn’t a rude sign at all.  I just grouped it here along with signs like ‘poo’ where are considered rude.

Fuck (this is not as rude as the equivalent work ‘fuck’ in English – it’s ruder than saying ‘damn’ but perhaps not quite as rude as saying ‘shit’)
Fuck you (this is offensive and hurtful)
Shit (this is used as a swear word (not to refer to ‘poo’) and it is not nearly as rude as ‘shit’ is in English. It’s more like saying ‘damn’ and you can even say it in somewhat polite company.)
•  Toilet
•  Poo
•  Piss (man)
•  Wee (woman)
•  Vagina
•  Penis
•  Erection (option 1)
•  Erection (option 2 – you can see an element of bragging and humour here!)
•  Sex (this is the formal, polite sign for sex, however, if you are talking informally, you would be likely to show the position – the next three signs give examples of that.)
•  69
•  spoon position
•  sex scissor position
•  cunnilingus (woman)
•  blow job (man)

This post is part of my free online Auslan course. See the rest of the course here.

To learn more about what it is really like to be Deaf, details about the Deaf community and how Auslan is used by Deaf people, read my book, Future Girl.

Learn Auslan – Colloquialisms

These are common Auslan signs which don’t relate specifically to a single English word. Note that many of them have their own lip patterns too.

• Strange/weird
• Finally, at long last
• Too late
• Hopeless
• Oh, now I get it!
• Come on
• What luck this situation occurred!
• Take me home
• How dare you!
• Sprung! / Ah ha! Caught you! (In the video, just before this sign, I start to sign something else – please disregard that!)
• Please yourself
• Relief / phew

This post is part of my free online Auslan course. See the rest of the course here.

To learn more about what it is really like to be Deaf, details about the Deaf community and how Auslan is used by Deaf people, read my book, Future Girl.

Learn Auslan – Lip patterns

In Auslan, the convention is to not mouth or speak the English words and sentences as you are signing, although some Deaf people do this to an extent anyway. For practise, try keeping your mouth closed as you sign. Avoid signing Auslan and verbally speaking English at the same time, as the English will confuse your Auslan grammar, facial expressions, depicting signs etc.

Auslan does, however, have its own lip patterns. These are the mouth shapes Deaf people make when they sign particular words. See the video for the lip patterns for these common words and phrases:

Vocab:

• Finish
• Never seen it / never heard of it
• Strange/weird

This post is part of my free online Auslan course. See the rest of the course here.

To learn more about what it is really like to be Deaf, details about the Deaf community and how Auslan is used by Deaf people, read my book, Future Girl.

Learn Auslan – Directional signs and tense

These are signs which vary in direction according to context. For example, the following signs are signed differently depending on who is receiving:

• Give me/you/everyone
• Help me/you/everyone
• Teach you/me/everyone
• Show you/me
• Tell you/me

In the last lesson, I taught you to add the word FINISH to a verb, to show past tense. However, if that verb is directional, like the signs in the video, then you should add the sign FINISH before the verb, not after it. For example, “You told me not to!” would be signed, YOU FINISH TELL-ME NO!

As a rule, frozen signs use verb+FINISH, and directional signs use FINISH+verb