I recently took an Auslan class with Deaf Can Do. It was phenomenal! I’ve come up with a list of reasons as to why you should do an Auslan class as well.
- Learn about the deaf community
As a hearing person looking at deaf people, sometimes we engage in an othering process. Sign language is expressive and animated, and, for us verbal communicators, it can seem a bit extraverted. This can limit our willingness to engage with the deaf community. By undertaking an Auslan course, it becomes obvious that deaf people are simply using their own language. It’s not weird anymore! The course allows you to develop an understanding and appreciation that begins to break down these barriers.
- Be able to communicate (even at a rudimentary level) with deaf people
So a handful of classes isn’t going to make you fluent in Auslan, but by understanding a little about the deaf community, and a few signs, you will probably be able to make do. Deaf people will appreciate that you’re trying! Apparently, Auslan, because it has its roots in British Sign Language, it is somewhat transferrable to UK, New Zealand, South Africa, and maybe Sweden, too. So learning Auslan is not just about communicating with deaf Australians – but deaf people across the world!
- Learn about language (compare and contrast to English)
I was getting 1984 flashbacks doing this course! Some of the signs, grammar, and meaning is really intuitive. Some words with similar meanings have the same signs and, often, this makes sense! Why have a separate sign for ‘have to’ and ‘must’? And how important is tense really? When I was comparing Auslan to English I began to see the many flaws in English. For a lover of language, Auslan really piqued by interest in expression.
- Use different parts of your brain
These classes were exhausting! I am a learner who is used to reading and listening, but making sense of movement in this way was so new. I am learning other languages through Duolingo and, though that is great in its own way, it’s a certain arrangement of letters or sounds that make a word. This is a language where movement makes a word and it’s hard to describe how odd that feels in your mind. It’s also like there are two significant parts: the being able to do the sign (sometimes difficult), and there is the being able to read the sign (more difficult!). The two hours in these classes of a night was more exhausting than my entire day at work!
- Expand your recognition of visual input
Learning and engaging with Auslan makes you more attentive. If you’re not attentive, you miss out on meaning! Your eyes are peeled looking for new meaning, and as a writer, this means that we are inevitable going to be absorbing more data from our environment. Learning Auslan teachers you to see more.
- Do some hand physio
Some of the signs are painful! Especially as we repeat the signs a lot (good for learning). For writers (and others) who are spending a lot of time on their keyboards, learning Auslan is a chance for your wrists and fingers to engage in different, beneficiary movements.
- Possible benefits to children learning sign language first
There are discussions about children benefitting from learning sign language before they are verbal. But the only way parents can teach their kids Auslan is by knowing it themselves first!
- Become more conscious of your facial expressions and body
Sign language is not just hand movements – it’s expression and body movement, too. Sometimes we can use verbal language as a crutch and forget all the other ways we have to communicate. An Auslan class will enhance your non verbal communication skills.
- Support a charity!
One of the reasons I chose to do this particular course is because it was through the charity Deaf Can:Do. I understand that profits from the course go back to the organisation, and this makes me happy.
- It’s fun and social!
My course was attended by a range of people – people with deaf family members, working with deaf children, working with children with intellectual delays, or people who are ‘just interested’ in this Australian language. The group of participants was interesting in its diversity, and it was just fun. Which was good because I was with them for ten hours in total!
- Learn more about training
As someone who is a teacher and trainer, I love seeing others train. I always feel like you can gain something from training through others. This course was no exception. I now have new strategies and games to try, and I’m excited to do so.
After all that, I signed up for ‘Talking Hands 2’ and look forward to learning more sign language.
Have you ever taken a sign-language class? What did you get out of it?