About Auslan PDF Print E-mail
Auslan is different to other languages. It is entirely visual and like most other sign languages, has no written form. It has its own grammatical, socio-linguistic, discourse and strategic characteristics which are quite different from the majority language of English.

Fluent signing operates at a rate comparable to that of fluent speech. As with most visual spatial languages, there are fice parameters of formational properties of sign: handshapes, location of signs, movements involved, orientation of the fingers and palms and the use of facial expression and non-manual markers. Students become accustomed to encoding and decoding meaning from these parameters which also aid visual coordination and visual memory. Fingerspelling gives strong kinaestheric, visual and motor feedback to connect to the word or sign and enables words to be separated into distinct parts and patterns.

The chief characteristic of Auslan is the way it uses a three dimensional sign space. Within this sign space there are thousands of signs used to convey a considerable range of meaning. It is a highly contextualized language as signs articulated in isolation may differ in meaning when articulated in signed sequences.

It is now taught from kindergarten level right through to tertiary level as well as in Community Centres all over Victoria. Tutors are also available to go into homes to teach Auslan to families. Melbourne Polytechnic is renowned for its Auslan course where students are immersed in the language, culture and history in a two-year full-time course. Many of these students go onto RMIT to study to become Auslan interpreters.

Employment opportunities for Auslan students range from teaching the language, teaching deaf students, interpreting, social work, counseling, speech pathology, aged care and child care.

The study promotes understanding of different attitudes and values within the wider Australian community and beyond and promotes cross-cultural understanding between deaf and hearing Australians. Physical behaviours, such as pointing, (indicating where people are situated in the signing space), eye-contact, touching and standing distances vay between deaf and hearing people. Eye-contact is extremely important; to look away from the signer is considered to be rude. Signers establish contact with each other by gaining attention through touch - on the arm or shoulder. Signers stand further apart from each other so they can use their signing space more effectively and to gain maximum information.

Although Auslan is a complete and complex language, it is an ideal language for all students. In kindergartens and evev in Preps, gross motor movements made by children are much more easily made than fine motor movements of speech, children learning to sign use different pathways to the brain than those used for spoken languages. Being a visual language, children from Non English Backgrounds have less difficulty learning Auslan, thus gaining confidence and increased self-esteem.

Auslan is a communicative language which means it cannot be learnt from a dictionary nor from a DVD or video. We expect Auslan teachers to be fluent in the language, have an excellent understanding of the linguistics of Auslan, understand the relationship between the language and culture and be competent in methodology.