Auslan videos are becoming common in Australia as the technology to make them becomes more affordable and convenient. These videos range from document translations, to promotional videos, to teaching resources.
However, materials are being published that claim to use and/or teach Auslan, many by people who are not native users of the language, and some of these materials use Auslan incorrectly. This is cause for concern to Deaf Australia and the Deaf community.
There is indeed a need for more Auslan resources and Deaf Australia encourages Auslan authors to create more materials. However, the publication, promotion and sale of resources that use Auslan incorrectly does not help the user/learner, the Auslan language, or the Australian Deaf community whose language is Auslan.
Auslan (Australian Sign Language) is the language used by the Australian Deaf community. Auslan is not the same as sign languages used in other countries- different countries use different sign languages.Download the Auslan Policy for more information on Auslan (Australian Sign Language) (PDF 51KB)
In the absence of more definitive research, it is Deaf Australia’s view that it is not appropriate for anyone to set themselves up as “the authority” on Auslan. However, there is a need for guidance in the use of Auslan in published materials, by native users of the language.
To this end Deaf Australia has established this Auslan Endorsement System, which tests new and existing Auslan videos. If the videos meets the criteria, it will be endorsed by Deaf Australia.
All of our testers are fluent users of Auslan with an in-depth knowledge of the language, the Deaf community and its culture. But it must be acknowledged that in the absence of more definitive research, this system necessarily has an element of subjectivity.
We urge authors to use it to ensure their materials are as accurate and faithful to Auslan as possible.
We also urge all those who buy materials to buy Deaf Australia endorsed materials. If materials are not Deaf Australia endorsed, then when considering whether or not to purchase them special attention needs to be given to the material’s author/s and their level of fluency and knowledge of Auslan and the Deaf community.
Criteria for Endorsement
To be endorsed by Deaf Australia, Auslan materials must meet the criteria set out below.
- Category 1:
Auslan is a visual language that moves in space, and as such it cannot be easily written down. (There is a writing system that linguists use, but most people do not know or understand it.) The most effective media for Auslan is film/CD/DVD – i.e. media that allows the movements and expressions of Auslan to be shown. Materials presented in these media have a better chance of being endorsed.
- Many materials, e.g. books and websites, try to depict Auslan signs with the use of static drawings and photographs. Since these materials cannot adequately show the movement and non-manual features (e.g. expressions) of the signs, they need to include an explanation of how the signs move and the non-manual features. This explanation should either accompany each sign (e.g. as in a dictionary), or be included as a glossary. Auslan material taken from other sources should have appropriate copyright approval.
- Materials that use static representations of Auslan signs should include advice to the user that these materials should only be used in conjunction with a face to face Auslan class, or with people who already know the signs, they are not suitable by themselves as a method for learning Auslan because the movement and non-manual features of the signs cannot be clearly shown in this format.
- Signs must be acceptable to our testers for all of the 5 elements:
- Non-manual features (e.g., expression) (Materials published before March 2008 and being tested retrospectively, will be accepted if they are considered accurate for all of the first 4 elements, new materials published from March 2008 must have all 5 elements that are acceptable to our testers.)
- Signs must be considered to be understood everywhere in Australia. If they are not widely used nationally then the material needs to include a statement advising that it contains regional signs that are not used nation-wide.
- For persons’/characters’ names, unless the person/character has a pre-existing sign name, names should be fingerspelled in full, in line with Deaf customs.
- Signs must be acceptable to our testers as being appropriate to the context.
- Signers’ delivery of signs should be age appropriate to the audience.
- Photographs and illustrations of signers should be appropriate to the audience and the story – e.g. illustrations of child signers in children’s books.
- Category 2:
Materials that use representations of Auslan signs to accompany the English text, as in a children’s story book with a sign attached to each word or group of words, are not fully Auslan materials because they depict Auslan signs in English word order. The grammatical structure of sentences is different in Auslan.
These materials will be endorsed as Category 2 Auslan materials if they meet the criteria for Category 1, but the grammar is English.
These materials should include a statement advising the user that although the signs themselves are Auslan signs they are used in English word order.
Criteria for selection as a member of the Auslan Endorsement Team
To be selected as a member of the Auslan Endorsement team, each individual should meet criteria 1 plus at least another three of the following criteria:
- Be a native (i.e., should have been using Auslan since before the age of 7 years) or near-native Auslan user.
- Preferably be from a Deaf family that uses Auslan.
- Preferably has experience in teaching Auslan.
- Has a good understanding of sign linguistics.
- Has a good understanding of/ability to translate from Auslan to English and vice versa, including good fluency in English.
- Understands and accepts that like all languages, Auslan, its signs and how they are used, is constantly changing.
Process of endorsement – new materials (pre-publication)
The author/producer sends materials to the Deaf Australia office accompanied by the standard test fee. The fee is $275, to be made payable to Deaf Australia Inc.
Deaf Australia sends the material to three or four members of the Auslan Endorsement Team with a criteria checklist.
Each member of the team reviews the item and fills out the checklist. When completed, the material and the checklist are returned to the Deaf Australia office.
If there are significant disagreements between testers, Deaf Australia will ask the testers to discuss the material and arrive at an agreed position.
If the material meets the criteria, Deaf Australia adds it to the list of endorsed Auslan materials on the Deaf Australia website, and sends it back to the author/producer with a form stating that it has been approved for endorsement by Deaf Australia, and an order form for the number of stickers required (artwork for inclusion of the stickers in the item can also be provided).
If the material does not meet the criteria, Deaf Australia returns it to the author/producer with a form stating that it has not been approved, and brief information on which criteria it failed to meet. Authors/producers who wish to have a detailed review and report on how to change the material to meet the criteria will need to pay a further fee, to be determined depending on the extent of the work required.