May 6-12 is New Zealand Sign Language Week which is a great opportunity to support and learn more about NZSL and the Deaf community of Aotearoa. Here are a few facts for starters:
- NZSL (New Zealand Sign Language) is the natural language of Deaf New Zealanders and is used daily by more than 20,000 Kiwis.
- Rather than simply being a signed representation of spoken English, NZSL is a separate language, with its own structure and grammar.
- NZSL became an official language of New Zealand in April 2006
- The Deaf Aotearoa logo features a butterfly symbol which is visual metaphor for sign language because some butterflies have no sense of hearing and do not produce sounds or use them to communicate. Like butterflies, Deaf people make more use of their eyes to communicate, and Butterflies use their body and legs to feel vibrations, while Deaf people use their hands.
As churches and communities, we should be regularly reflecting on how well we create welcoming, caring, safe environments for the people we encounter. As you think about NZSL this week, ask yourself if there are some ways you can make an effort to better connect with the Deaf people in your community. This doesn’t necessarily mean becoming fluent in sign language, but even learning a few basic greetings and questions or putting up posters with some basic sign language is a great way to show that you care.
This year's theme is 'My Language, My Place', and as a way of showing support for NZSL, Deaf Aotearoa are encouraging people to learn to sign 'My language is NZSL, my place is ...'. Check out the NZSL online dictionary here to find out how to sign your place! There's also a heap of NZSL Week events happening around the country, including NZSL taster classes at many businesses and organisations. Maybe you could join a class near you, or you could even try organising someone to come and teach your youth group some basics.
Check out the NZSL Week website here for event details along with loads of great info and resources.