Auslan teacher in group

Five interesting facts about Auslan

Just like hundreds of foreign languages are spoken around the globe, people who are deaf use different sign languages depending on where they live. It’s estimated there are 130 sign languages around the world.

In Australia, our hearing impaired community primarily communicates by Australian Sign Language, better known as Auslan. Here are five interesting facts about Auslan we bet you haven’t heard before.


1. A uniquely Australian language

Auslan is a unique language created by deaf and hearing impaired Australians.

It’s a visual-gestural form of communication that uses the body and facial movements and gestures to convey meaning. Almost 20,000 people use Auslan to communicate daily.

In 1991, the Australian Government recognised Auslan as an official language.


2. Auslan is around 200 years old.

Auslan dates back around 200 years. It developed when British, Irish and Scottish immigrants brought sign language to Australia, which means that Auslan is similar to British Sign Language due to their historical similarities.


3. It doesn’t use English grammar.

Auslan has its own grammatical system. Like all sign languages, Auslan is a visual language that simultaneously uses movement to convey grammar and meaning. As a spoken language, English relies on word order and sentence structure.

Surprisingly, Auslan’s grammatical form is closer to French or Chinese than English.


4. You use your whole body to communicate

Auslan relies on a mix of hand shapes, movements and facial expressions to convey information.

Hand shapes – There are 38 hand shapes with 28 variants in Auslan
Direction – The direction of your palm and hand to your body can change the meaning of words or add context.
Location – Signs are made near different body parts to convey meaning Movement – Big or small movements of the head, arms, and hands can suggest other words
Expression – Head and facial gestures or expressions convey emotion and emphasis


5. Fingerspelling makes up 10 per cent of chats

Fingerspelling is used in the Auslan community when there isn’t a commonly understood sign for a particular word. It’s widely used for people’s names, places, events and slang.

Auslan users tell us that they use fingerspelling for about 10 per cent of the words in their everyday conversations.


Auslan Signbank

Auslan Signbank is a language resources site for Auslan. The signbank features:

  • A dictionary
  • Ability to search for signs related to medical and health topics
  • Ability to search for signs related to educational and teaching topics
  • Videos of deaf people using the listed Auslan signs
  • Information on the deaf community in Australia
  • Links to Auslan classes

Users of Auslan – hearing impaired people, sign language interpreters, Auslan students, or a parents of deaf children—are invited to provide feedback to help improve the signbank dictionary.

Can Lifely staff speak Auslan?

Here at Lifely, we’re lucky to have several team members who speak Auslan fluently and even more who have training in Key Word Sign.

We pride ourselves on matching our participants and families to the right workers. So, when a participant or family requires their team to speak Auslan or any other language, we match them with someone who can or find a mutually acceptable communication solution until we can.

Contact us today to talk about your support needs, including Auslan.