AUSLAN (Australian Sign Language)
Auslan is the official language of the Australian Deaf community. At Bellbridge, Prep and Grade 1 students have a weekly Auslan session throughout the year. Students in Grades 2 to 6 receive an hour a week of Auslan for one semester (Semester 1 or Semester 2).
Like all signed languages, communicating in Auslan involves the use of agreed manual signs and ways of ordering them. Students learn how to communicate with each other, using signs and constructed action (mime) to get their message across. They learn the important features that distinguish signs from each other: handshape, orientation, location, movement and expression (HOLME). They discuss how some signs are iconic (it is obvious what they mean) and others need to be memorised. They also learn that some signs are in common use across all Australian citizens (e.g. waving, thumbs up).
Auslan has its own grammar structure, which is different from English. At Bellbridge Primary School, we compare and contrast Auslan with English, increasing our understanding of both languages. In addition, the visual-gestural modality of Auslan results in some unique features that are not found in spoken languages. This is also used to help students deepen their understanding of languages, and learn to appreciate that all languages have unique connections and relationships with the cultures that use them. This increases students understanding of themselves as communicators.
Students develop an understanding that there is a distinct Deaf culture. This is used to explore the nature of identity, diversity and belonging. Most importantly, students come to understand that language is enjoyable for social reasons. They use Auslan to communicate in interactions and games with each other, thereby developing shared pleasure through social interaction.