Thursday, June 16, 2011

Auslan Signbank (is this a perfect use of the internet, or what?)

Many moons ago, I learned some Auslan - Australian Sign Language, as used by the deaf community.  As you may know, this is not the same as the sign language used in the UK or the US, even though our countries all share English.  As it happens I haven't used it much, or (to be honest) retained a lot of what I learned twenty years ago, but some has stuck, and come in handy from time to time.  (And one of my best true funny stories is about an unexpectedly handy application of Auslan...!)

Working with a slightly tricky kid the other day, where something lateral and quirky was more likely to catch his attention than plain vanilla, I used some fingerspelling.  It did catch his attention when I repeated a word in this unexpected way).  But his attention drifted when I had to attend to other students, and when I had time to get back to him, he was definitely grumpy again.  Hmmm, I thought, I wonder if...?  Less than a minute of googling and I'd found the Auslan signbank online.

How to sign 'grumpy'?



This is an utterly brilliant use of the internet.  Many moons ago, I had a couple of books (the more comprehensive one hugely bulky) that contained signs.  Trapped in drawn diagrams, because that is what print books can do.  But on this page, the little video shows you the word/idea being signed.  You can replay it as often as you like.  You can search for any of the other over 4000 signs listed via the alphabetical list or just the word you want.  You can search on medical terms only.  You can see in which parts of Australia a particular sign is used.

Here's what the site includes:
  • a dictionary
  • a special medical and health dictionary
  • grammar examples on video
  • videos of deaf people using Auslan naturally
  • information on the deaf community in Australia
  • links to Auslan classes
To my knowledge, there aren't students using sign at my school (ie. I don't know if we have any who use it at home, but it's not used at school) - my use of it is as an attention-getter, something different, a way to cut through and get a kid's attention (which I can then deploy in the direction I'd like it to go...); and as a window on another way of looking at the world.  The grumpy sign certainly illustrates the frustration/crankiness/grumpiness of the student who prompted this search.(He'll be back and I'll be ready!).  Maybe I'll get to use this sign instead.

One to share with other teachers - English/drama, for example.



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