Sign Language is an umbrella term, which refers to systems of Language that use gestures and signs made using parts of the body such as hands, to communicate a message. Sign language is most commonly known for its use amongst the deaf population. There are however, some types of sign language used frequently by other populations. For example, the Key Word Sign or MAKATON system is often used with people who have language difficulties such as children with Autism.
Just like there is an abundance of different languages across the world, there are also hundreds of different sign languages. The most commonly used type of sign language used globally is ASL, which stands for American Sign Language. However, each countries has its own primary or native sign language. The most commonly used type of Sign Language in Australia is known as AUSLAN, which stands for Australian Sign Language. Auslan is most commonly used amongst the Deaf community of Australia and is a complex system, which can differ even across states just as a language may differ slightly between different dialects or accents.
There are two main dialects of Auslan, which have developed due to the establishment of the two major residential schools for the deaf, one in Sydney and the other in Melbourne. There are slight differences in some words, however they are largely the same, as they were based originally from British sign language originally brought over in the nineteenth century. Complex language systems such as AUSLAN include extra features such as grammatical markers to help convey meaning and even emotion within the message.
Auxiliary Sign Languages are additional languages created to increase the ease of communication. Key Word Sign for example is more simplistic in its presentation and can represent whole concepts through one gesture such as ‘more’ or ‘go’. The focus is less detailed in regards to grammar, punctuation and the small nuances within language. Instead, the focus is on functional communication, so the system can be learned and implemented in a more user-friendly manner. This is often why these simpler sign languages are chosen for younger populations or individuals with more severe diagnoses as they may not possess the language capacity or intellectual capacity to learn a more complex signing system such as AUSLAN.
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This article was written by our Speech Pathologist Ashleigh Fattah who is a Speech Pathology Australia member. If you have speech pathology related questions, make an appointment. We‘ll provide you with simple and effective therapy targeted to your concerns. Contact us today.