For the first time, in 2023 an Australian Sign Language (Auslan) syllabus will be available in NSW schools. It’s been a part of Victoria’s VCE curriculum since 1994, and is taught in schools across Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia. Learning Auslan has a multitude of benefits for Australian children of all ages and backgrounds. If you are looking for inspirational ways to teach signing as a second language, we’ve gathered some helpful resources below that you can use with your ActivPanel.
The history of Auslan
Just like in spoken language, Australia has its own regional variation of sign language that has developed over time, distinct from American Sign Language (ASL) and British Sign Language (BSL). The name Auslan was coined in the early 1980s by Trevor Johnston, although the language itself has roots that go back to the 19th century.
As with any language, there are variations of Auslan, influenced by factors like social group, education, age, even gender. One of the most important types of variation in Auslan is regional variation.
The two main regional dialects in Australia are the southern dialect (used in Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania), and the northern dialect (used in New South Wales and Queensland). So it’s good to double check whether the resources you are using are relevant for your area.
Despite all this variation, fluent Auslan signers have little trouble communicating with each other.
Benefits to learning Auslan
There are many benefits to learning Auslan as a second language for children and adults alike. Bilingualism, whether spoken or signed, can improve attention and multi-tasking abilities, and can even stave of cognitive decline as we age.
When it comes to sign language specifically, studies have shown that its users are often better than non-signers at processing and manipulating spatial information. This means that how you perceive the world (things like actively noticing small details in a crowded room or busy street) can be altered by learning sign language!
Free Auslan resources
- Auslan Signbank: This is a dictionary and signbank, that allows you to search signs by their area (such as healthcare phrases). Each sign word is accompanied with a video demonstration, written definition, and the sign’s distribution throughout Australia.
- Western Australian Association of the Deaf – Free Auslan posters. Project these posters individually onto your ActivPanel, or pop them into a flipchart to navigate quickly between them. Use the Splitscreen capabilities and have them displayed simultaneously with your lesson content.
- Auslan Hub – This page has some great (and free!) downloadable teaching resources, including a jigsaw activity, fun games, and video-based stories!
Free Apps for learning Auslan
- Auslan Storytime: Brought to you by the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children, Auslan Storytime is an app that is aimed at younger children who are still acquiring sign language. It can also be a great tool for teachers to see first-hand different ways of signing stories in engaging ways.
- Auslan Tutor: This app gives you video-based tools for teaching and learning how to communicate 150 common Auslan signs.
- Auslan Anywhere – A format that older children and teens will be familiar with, this app gives you a Tik Tok-style feed of short videos that teach you how to sign specific phrases. You can join up as a “learner” if you are a beginner, or a “contributor” if you are more fluent inAuslan, and feel confident enough to create your own videos for others to learn from. There is also a clever “request” tool, where learners can suggest phrases for contributors to create a video for.
Videos for teaching and learning Auslan
- Heulwen Sweet is a Melbourne-based Auslan teacher with a range of great videos on teaching Auslan on her Youtube channel. There are videos for all kinds of topics, including vocabulary-building, linguistics and even signed maths.
- Sally & Possum is a children’s show that is hosted on the Queensland Government’s Early Childhood Education and Care website. It has six seasons, so there’s plenty of content for the whole class to enjoy on the ActivPanel.
Want to see a live example of how these great online resources can be utilised with the ActivPanel? Book a bespoke online demonstration hosted by a Promethean Education Consultant.