Finding NZ sign language

Post by Victoria Lessing, Auckland

Hello everyone, I have a story about how I came to realise that NZSL is its own language, this happened long time ago when I was about 14.

When I was small, up until I was 14, I lived in Latvia which is a country in Europe. I grew up using Russian Sign Language and Russian spoken language as my family are all hearing. I lived my life thinking everything was normal. I went to a Deaf school there, using sign language there.

Then we moved to Auckland, and went to Kelston Deaf Education Centre. Next door was a Girls High School with a Deaf Unit where there were a few Deaf students. Overseas I was used to a Deaf school with over 300 Deaf students so came here to see only 15-20 students in the Deaf Unit. I went in looked around and saw students using sign language, I picked up that they were using different signs. It was different to Russian Sign Language.

Back overseas my parents told me that I would learn a new language, English, but they never told me that NZSL was its own language or that Russia had its own sign language. I never thought about it.

I would watch people signing here, and slowly learnt NZSL, with patience I learnt more and more. Wow, New Zealand had its own sign language. Then I realised other countries had their own sign languages too, AUSLAN in Australia, Japanese Sign Language (JSL) in Japan, French had theirs too, same as many other countries around the world.

This was fascinating for me, I was about 13/14 years old. I realised that sign language and English were separate languages. This had a big impact on me. After that I loved learning NZSL and learnt more and more. After three months communication was still slow but after one year it was easier and I could follow what was going on. After 2,3,4,5 years I became more and more fluent.

Looking back it was a great experience. So that is the end of my story.

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