To celebrate NZSL Week, Deaf Aotearoa, an organization dedicated to promoting awareness of NZSL and promoting its advancement, will be offering more than 600 free classes in schools, healthcare facilities and businesses all over New Zealand. To finish the week, NZSL in Action Awards Gala Dinner will be held in order to thank everyone’s contribution and support towards NZSL and the New Zealand deaf community in general. The New Zealand government is also offering tours of Parliament led by a New Zealand Sign Language interpreter, which will be available throughout May.
NZSL has around 24,000 regular users who resort to a combination of hand signs, body movements and gestures to express themselves. Tariana Turia, New Zealand’s Minister for Disability Issues, has encouraged New Zealanders to celebrate a language which stands as a unique way to connect and communicate with others. She added that, to keep a language alive, it has to be used every day in a variety of situations within a specific community. For this reason, she encouraged everyone to take part in its promotion, learning and use, to keep New Zealand diverse and inclusive.
Turia also commented on the upcoming event named Signathon, which will help children improve their spelling, learn NZSL and gain awareness while enjoying themselves and raising money to help Deaf Aotearoa by means of sponsorship. The Ministry of Education, Ministry of Social Development and Office for Disability Issues are encouraging staff members to learn NZSL to improve the work environment and their understanding of the Deaf community.
New Zealand Sign Language
NZSL is a language in itself, different from English and other sign languages used in other countries, with structures and a grammar specific to itself. It is a part of New Zealand’s cultural background and, as such, it reflects New Zealand’s identity, including signs in Maori and others specific to concepts unique to the country. NZSL is one of the country’s official languages, together with the English language and the Maori language.