Languages - Auslan - Australian Sign Language

Our Lady of Lourdes students from Years 3 to 6 are learning Auslan as our chosen language in LOTE. Auslan is Australian Sign Language, the native language of the Australian Deaf community.  It is a visual-spatial and natural language for our Deaf community, with its own grammar and vocabulary.

Auslan has linguistic elements, such as hand shapes (including orientation, location and movement), non-manual features (including eye gaze, facial expressions, arm, head and body postures) and fingerspelling.  It combines specific hand shapes, facial expressions and body movements to communicate the intended information.

Learning Auslan is something anyone can do, which means students gain the capacity to communicate with peers, friends, and family members who use Auslan, and even those who don't. Learning a visual language such as Auslan, provides students with an added an appreciation for Deafhood, cultural identity, and the Deaf community membership.

Auslan is recognised by linguists as having two major dialects—Northern (Queensland and New South Wales), and Southern (Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia, and Western Australia).  The children from Our Lady of Lourdes learn predominantly the Northern dialect, but also the Southern dialect, so that we are all inclusive.

​Auslan uses a variety of ways to convey meaning. Several elements of signing are often combined with one another to construct the signs on which the language is based. These include:

  • Hand shapes – Auslan currently has 38 major handshapes with 28 variants which brings it to the total of 66 handshapes in all.
  • Orientation – signs can be oriented to four different sides of the body, with the palm and hand facing different directions.
  • Location – signs may be placed in different locations in relation to the body.
  • Movement – this includes head, arm and hand movement. Movements can be large or small, depending on the sign.
  • Expression – this is as important as intonation when speaking. It can include head and facial movements, and facial expression. Many standard gestures, such as shaking the head for no or raising the eyebrows to form a question, are used to convey emotion, emphasis and intensity.
  • Fingerspelling – Auslan uses a two-handed fingerspelling system. When there is no established sign, the word is spelled out on the fingers (for example, when using jargon or a person's name).