New Zealand Sign Language is 1 of the 3 official languages of New Zealand. It was created by members of the Deaf community and is the main language of New Zealand’s Deaf community.
- New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) is crucial to many Deaf people's ability to learn, communicate and participate in society. It is vital to the expression of Deaf culture and identity.
- Sign language is not universal. Most countries have their own sign languages. NZSL is unique to New Zealand.
- Signs are formed by a combination of hands, facial expressions, lip patterns and body language to convey meanings. Just like any other language, NZSL has its own grammatical structure and ways of expressing ideas.
- There are approximately 11,000 Deaf people who use NZSL as their primary form of communication and approximately 20,000 people in total who use NZSL.
- There are lots of resources for anyone who would like to learn NZSL, including hearing people who have Deaf relatives, interpreters or healthcare professionals and others who work with Deaf people.
What is New Zealand Sign Language?
New Zealand Sign Language is unique to New Zealand and is the main language of New Zealand’s Deaf community. NZSL became an official language in New Zealand in April 2006.
NZSL was created by Deaf people for Deaf people. It is a natural language that conveys information via a combination of hand shapes, facial expressions and body movements. It is not based on English or other spoken languages and is not just fingerspelling.
NZSL reflects New Zealand culture by including signs for Māori terminology and concepts.
How can I learn New Zealand Sign Language?
There are several online resources you can use to learn NZSL.
Learn New Zealand Sign Language This site offers an online course to do at your own pace. It is broken into topics and each topic is divided into sections for words, phrases, conversations and a wrap-up of important points.
NZSL Online The website is designed to provide students in NZSL101 with independent language practice. Exercises and information in the 12 lessons reinforce weekly teaching.
Thumbs Up! An introduction to New Zealand Sign Language Ministry of Education, NZ. This online video resource was designed for use in schools but is available free to anyone who would like to learn New Zealand Sign Language.
The Online Dictionary of New Zealand Sign Language Deaf Studies Research Unit, Victoria University of Wellington, NZ. On this site, you can search in English or te reo to find video examples of how to sign words, do fingerspelling, sign the alphabet or numbers and more.
New Zealand Sign Language exercises Victoria University of Wellington, NZ. This site gives you a way of practising your comprehension skills in an interactive medium. These exercises allow you to watch short video clips of signers and respond by clicking on or entering responses to questions. You will get immediate feedback on whether your answers are correct or not, and you can repeat the exercises as often as you like, at your own pace.
NZSL classes for the workplace Deaf Aotearoa NZ. This course provides your workplace with an understanding of relevant New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) vocabulary to increase your ability to effectively communicate with your Deaf clients and customers.
First Signs Supports the learning of New Zealand Sign Language for family and whānau of deaf or hard-of-hearing children aged 0–5 years.
Sign Ninja This is an interactive, free, online game to help you learn, practice and explore NZSL. It is compatible with computers, tablets and smartphones.
A guide to working with New Zealand Sign Language interpreters New Zealand Sign Language Board, 2017
Video Interpreting Service A free service offering a video interpreter through Skype, a standard phone or a face-to-face meeting.
iSign Qualified interpreters offering services to enable communication access and participation for Deaf people.
New Zealand Sign Language Board Ministry of Social Development & Office for Disability Issues
- About New Zealand Sign Language Office for Disability Issues, NZ, 2018