23 Jun 2013

10 reasons to learn Auslan (BANZSL)

Auslan or BANZSL (British, Australian, New Zealand Sign Language) is a sign language which originates from a deaf sign language used in Britain during the 19th Century. Contrary to a common belief, not all sign languages are the same. For example, ASL (American Sign Language) is very different to BSL (British Sign Language). Also, signed languages are not just word for word spoken language signed but they have their own syntax, grammar and word origins. Also, some countries actually have sign language as one of their official languages, for example: New Zealand. 
I'm going to give you ten reasons to learn Auslan (the sign language in Australia).

Creative Common by Deaf Action 
Creative Common by Wycliffe South Africa

Creative Common by Deaf Action
1. Its finger signs
In Auslan, the letter finger signs are actually quite logical and look cool. The vowels are represented by each finger on your non-dominant hand and with some finger signs you shape the letter on your hand.
Creative Common by HaloHoney
"S O R R Y" in Auslan
Creative Common by butupa
2. Patriotism
Auslan is the only non-indigenous language that is "genuinely Australian". Learning Auslan may increase national pride and you would learn another language that isn't very foreign. 

Image by Wikimedia Commons
Sign on a road in Northern Territory
Written in English, German, Italian, Japanese and an aboriginal language
Creative Common by Justin Cozart
From right to left: the NT flag, the aboriginal flag and the Australian flag
Creative Common by Lirrwi Tourism
3. Similarity to other sign languages
If you learn Auslan, you would be generally understood by deaf Brits, New Zealanders, South Africans, North Irishmen and possibly Swedes as their sign languages originate from the same language. 

Discussing about political status of NZSL
Creative Common by Br3nda
Creative Common by Makayla Lewis
South African sign language class
Image by Wycliffe South Africa
Creative Common by Rex Libris
4. You are able to argue without shouting :)
You can have a loud, controversial debate without making a sound. 
You can shout like this...
Creative Common by Alan Turkus
... or this, without making any noise!
Creative common by Jimmy Jack Kane
5. Deaf culture
During a recent cruise last February, there was a deaf community who were onboard. Most of the deaf people I spoke to (or attempted to use my limited Auslan on) were very animated and very good at expressing themselves (some were better than I am). They appreciated the fact that I learnt to finger sign in Auslan, which let them teach me some word-signs. 
Creative Common by Elyse Patten
Creative Common by Luis Justino
6. Secret Code
If you and a friend both learn Auslan, you can talk to each other discreetly and people*  around you won't know what you're saying. *Unless there was a deaf person right next to you. 
Creative Common by Commanding Hands
7. You would have a back-up plan in case you lose your voice or hearing
Whether you get a sore throat, go out of breath or go without talking for forty-hour famine, you would have a 'communication back up plan'. 

Hearing aids, an Australian invention
Creative Common by Birmingham Museum and Art Galley
8. It's fun
Signing in Auslan is very expressive and fun. Because of that Auslan is part of my top 5 most fun languages to pronounce (the others being Khoekhoe or Nama, Swedish, German and Mandarin). 
Image by Wycliffe South Africa
Sign language class in Spain
Creative Common by Cat
9. It's good for you
If you have a very long conversation in Auslan, it can be seen as exercise because its body movement. 
Creative Common by Gillie 
Creative Common by Yang and Yun
10. Lack of speakers / Monolingualism in Australia
Most Australians (usually those who are only Irish or British in heritage) are monolingual, with English as their only language. Auslan is mainly sign by deaf people but some hearing people learn it. If everyone in Australia learnt Auslan, we would become a bilingual nation and there would be no threat of Auslan being restricted to the deaf. 
This image and the following are creative commons by Takver

What do you think? Are you convinced to learn Auslan or another sign language? Let me know in a comment.


  1. Wow, interesting. Reason number 6 (secret code) is fun. Anyway, I used to use sign language when I'm in national exams _cheating :P (1,2,..,A,B,C.,yes,no). created by my friends and I. So, no one knows the meaning but us.
    So, it's more secret than Auslan. But Auslan is great.

  2. I am Deaf person and I think your blog is awesome! I agree with all of your ten reasons and I learnt something new (similar languages)

  3. Hi, I find this very interesting! I'm from Australia and doing Auslan. Your blog is truly amazing! :D


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