Leaders in sign language

Victoria is continuing its leading role in New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) documentation, research and resource development with the release of a new online learning resource from the University’s Deaf Studies Research Unit (DSRU).

Called Learn NZSL, the course is the first of its kind to provide a large-scale, free interactive and sequential learning experience for NZSL, which is one of New Zealand’s official languages.

“It will be great for introducing people to everyday vocabulary, phrases and conversations in NZSL,” says Learn NZSL project manager and School of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies lecturer Sara Pivac Alexander.

“Approximately 95 percent of Deaf children are born to hearing parents. It can be difficult for hearing parents to access local NZSL classes, so this resource will help them increase their understanding and ability to communicate with their child and the Deaf community.

“Since NZSL became an official language in 2006, demand for sign language learning has increased. However, there is a small pool of NZSL teachers nationwide and the number of classes is limited. Learn NZSL aims to allow New Zealanders to learn from anywhere 24/7.

”The course is split into nine topics, supported by interactive tasks and 660 videos. Award-winning local eLearning company Kineo Asia Pacific has worked in partnership with the DSRU to develop the learning resources.

Learn NZSL has been funded by the NZSL board, a Ministry of Social Development advisory group that granted the project $230,000 and a donation from the TAB Book Project Committee.