Tag Archives: Australia sign languages

Learn Auslan – Deafness and sign language

Here are some signs about being deaf and using Auslan (Australian sign language):

Vocab:

  • Deaf
  • Hearing
  • Sign
  • Language
  • Auslan (Australian sign language)
  • Fingerspell/spell
  • Alphabet (A-Z)
  • Voice
  • Lock your voice/voice off
  • Oral (this is also the sign for lipread)

There are some words and phrases here that aren’t commonly used in mainstream English.

People who aren’t deaf are referred to as ‘hearing’. Deaf people who don’t use sign language, communicating with speech and lipreading, are described as ‘oral’. I grew up oral and learnt to sign when I was eighteen – this is a common situation for Deaf people in Australia.

Fingerspelling refers to manually spelling out the letters of words. If you don’t know the sign for a word, fingerspell it. In Auslan, fingerspelling is commonly used for names and places. Some words, such as ‘cream’ are always fingerspelled, and the fingerspelled version becomes a sort of ‘sign’ for that word. There are some English words for which there is no equivalent Auslan sign. In this case, you could fingerspell the word, though more fluent signers will usually find a way to visually convey the meaning of the word using Auslan signs.

Lock your voice: since Auslan has its own grammar, trying to speak English while signing can be challenging, and also make your signs difficult to understand. It’s common in Auslan to refer to ‘turning off your voice’ or ‘locking your voice’ which means that you don’t speak – just sign. However, if you are speaking English with a group of hearing people, and there is a Deaf person present, it is polite to sign whatever words you can, even if it’s not using correct Auslan grammar, so that the Deaf person can get an idea of what you are talking about.

Learn Auslan – Transport

Kids love learning and using transport signs:

Vocab:

  • Walk
  • Run
  • Ride a bike
  • Car
  • Drive
  • Train
  • Tram
  • Bus
  • Taxi
  • Plane/fly
  • Airport (sorry, the subtitle says ‘landing’. This sign is used for both ‘landing’ and ‘airport’)
  • Station

Other signs that kids often embrace are colours and foods – they are covered in other lessons. For our next lesson, though, we’ll get back to signs commonly used by adults.

I was a bit over-enthusiastic when signing some of these. While signing like this is not really ‘wrong’ and Deaf people will still understand you, it would be correct to sign ‘run’ with just two rotations of my arm, and ‘ride a bike’ should also be two cycles of pedaling with my fingers, and ‘car’ should be two rotations of my fists. ‘Bus’ should be two twists of the steering wheel. My apologies that these videos aren’t perfect – I hope they’ll still help you learn.

Looking Out… Looking In… an exhibition about Deafness

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When I was growing up, my deafness was marginally more interesting to me than, say, my freckles. It was not something I focussed on, nor was it central to my identity. I just accepted that I was ‘damaged goods’ and assumed it would take a very kind person in my future to marry me! These days my take on Deafness is very different. I’ve been exploring what it means for me to be Deaf, and together with Irene Holub, have created an art exhibition which reflects this journey. If you’re in Melbourne, I would love you to come and see it.

It’s at St Helier Street Gallery at Cam’s Cafe
Abbotsford Convent, 1 St Helier Street, Abbotsford

Please join us for drinks on opening night: Friday 2 Sept 6pm
Exhibition runs until 28th Sept.

RSVP here.