Why New Zealand Sign Language is essential
Sejin Bae signs “Auckland”.
Sejin Bae is a barista and communicates in New Zealand Sign Language.
OPINION: More than 24,000 New Zealanders use New Zealand Sign Language every day. Here’s why you should learn it too.
New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) is the language of the New Zealand Deaf community.
Since 2006, NZSL has been one of New Zealand’s official languages.
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Signs are formed by a combination of hands, facial expressions, lip patterns and body language.
For example, the sign for “Auckland” looks like the Sky Tower, with one arm standing up with the hand in the shape of a number one.
My favorite signs are: “Thank you”, “Fantastic” and “How are you?”.
There are many benefits to using NZSL, even if you are not Deaf or hard-of-hearing.
You can “talk” conveniently in sign language with your mouth full or “talk” through windows of a building from a distance.
You can also “talk” in loud nightclubs or “Whisper” in a church or a library.
You can have a conversation in NZSL if you are scuba diving underwater.
You can also have a private talk in public – as long as no other signers are watching!
For me personally as a barista, it’s really beneficial when others know the basics of NZSL because they can introduce themselves and order a coffee.
Learning NZSL causes you to literally open your eyes and rely on different senses to communicate. It exercises your peripheral vision and trains you to become more aware of your environment.
Deaf people are notoriously sharp-eyed, and by learning NZSL, you can be too!
By learning NZSL, you become a better communicator and listener. When learning the structure of NZSL, you will learn how to constantly reformulate ideas and check understanding.
The communication of ideas is much more precise and situation-oriented. Those are valuable skills which non-signers often do not develop.
I learned NZSL at a Deaf school in Auckland called Kelston Deaf Education Center. How can you learn NZSL?
The best way to learn NZSL is in a class taught by a Deaf tutor, but there are also online options too.
You can access the Online Dictionary of New Zealand Sign Language which includes video clips of signs. Or attend a class by an organization like Merge.
NZSL is for everyone and has many more benefits than just communication; it’s essential!