In New Zealand we have two official languages: Te Reo Maori and New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL). I was in Scorpio Books the other day and found a children’s ABC Sign Language book. I thought, awesome! I really wanted to get it for Jake. But then I opened it and discovered it was American Sign!
At the time I was gutted, but I was busy and thought, oh well, and got on with life. Since then the thought has been germinating. A-Z book in Sign is a great idea. Why have I not seen it? Why is it not accessible?!
I’m fairly sure that sadly the answer is, ‘because it’s not out there’.
Since beginning to learn NZSL earlier this year I’ve become quite enthusiastic about it. Beaulah shares that enthusiasm, and managed to get to a course to learn the basics. Because I’m learning from a Deaf lady I’m really learning her dialect of NZSL, whereas Beaulah learned prescriptive NZSL, but has limited general vocab; so we’re hoping to share each others knowledge so we both have a decent vocabulary and a sense of the rules of the language (also, I get to teach her all the swears 😉 ). Yay! (NB. Check out the Deaf Community PDF download at the bottom of this page to find out about Deaf vs. deaf)
I always loved the idea of having a bilingual child, but failed at learning a second language. Now I’ve found a language that really resounds with me, and I can teach it to Jake as I learn. It’s so great. Jake can sign ‘please’, ‘thank you’ and ‘sorry’. He knows what I mean when I sign, ‘good boy’, but he can’t coordinate his hands enough to do thumbs up yet, so he can’t sign ‘good’. As Jake learns the alphabet and counting I’m doing Sign simultaneously when my hands are free (and Maori somewhere in there too, but not as diligently as I have little vocabulary. Turns out I really value NZ culture).
It would be ideal if there was a book that he could sit down and peruse, and if he’s able to then also practice, to solidify learning Sign.
The solution: I’m going to make one.
As if I needed another project!
My husband has picked up a little too, and used it at work the other day when a Deaf customer came into his store.
If you’re interested in learning more about the Deaf community, learning NZSL, or have any questions, Deaf Aotearoa is an awesome place to start. The NZSL online dictionary is also very good, with videos of how to sign the word and an example of using in a sentence using the NZSL sentence structure (which is different from English).
And if you’re talking to me in person, expect me to be gesturing much more than I used to. Some of my gestures are probably Sign words! I’ve actually found it quite useful in stopping my brain doing too much wandering during a conversation.