Monday, March 19, 2007

Do you have a funny voice? Using Auslan: Australian sign language, a minority group language other than English.

Sign language is not used exclusively by people who are deaf. This language is also very useful for people who are hearing and or voice impaired. Once a student is confident enough to use this language in public places, they are frequently surprised just how many people are familiar with both sign language symbols and finger spelling.

Auslan is officially recognized as the Deaf community’s language in Australia. As mentioned in previous articles, hearing people journeying through Auslan classes find the experience to be challenging, interesting, and loads of fun. All students in the current Deaf Services Queensland class in Cairns, Australia, have successfully completed level one introduction to Auslan. Our efforts to learn introductory level two in Auslan are progressing nicely and coming to a close with only three once weekly lessons remaining. We are encouraged to have voices ‘turned off’ during class and also during the coffee/tea break.

To date, weekly lessons have resulted in students accomplishing the following skills by signing in Auslan.

* How to make culturally appropriate introductions and gain another person’s attention.

* Hand shape: The point hand and Auslan language signing symbols associated with the point hand shape.

* Describing others: Individually using signing symbols with appropriate hand shapes describing features of a person to the class until the group correctly recognizes the person being described by the signer.

* Talking about family and occupations: Individually describing our own family group and personal occupational history to the class, receiving feed back to confirm the information given.

* Attributing qualities to others: Describing another person’s personal qualities; describing our own or someone else’s pet’s type, gender, personality and appearance; game playing in the style of charades using Auslan symbols to portray different personalities and desirable personal qualities for specific work roles.

If you are interested in learning Auslan or the official sign language in your country, find out where your nearest Deaf Services Office is and request information about language classes. Personally, sign language is a great support to me when my voice is very soft following treatment or vocal cords are spasming and others are unable to understand my speech. Sometimes, in busy or crowded areas, I choose to sign rather than attempt speech knowing others are unable to hear or understand me. If you do not yet know any formal sign language, using common sense gestures and facial expressions together with other body language soon gets your message across to others. If you suffer from spasmodic dysphonia I wish you well.

I hope this article is of interest to you. You are welcome to leave a comment or email me at

Sue Bayliss. Cairns, Australia.

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