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Thumbs Up! An Introduction to New Zealand Sign Language

New Zealand Sign Language (NSL) Week

New Zealand Sign Language (NSL) Week will be held between 10 to 16 May 2021.

The International Week of the Deaf and the United Nations International Day of Sign Languages held on 23 September. 

NZSL Week is organised by Deaf Aotearoa to raise awareness of the language and culture of New Zealand’s Deaf community. 

New Zealand Curriculum (NZC) Online resource page – provides a range of resources and ideas to help you celebrate this important language week at your school. 

About this site

This site provides a resource Thumbs Up! An Introduction to New Zealand Sign Language.

Designed for students in years 7–8 working at curriculum levels 1 and 2, the resource supports the teaching and learning of NZSL as an additional language in English-medium schools.

New Zealand Sign Language (NSL) is used by members of New Zealand’s Deaf community and those linked with this community, for example, hearing people who have Deaf relatives or interpreters who work with Deaf people.

NSL and the NZC

New Zealand Sign Language Act 2006 

New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) is recognised as an official language of New Zealand through this act. Thus, NZSL has special mention in The New Zealand Curriculum (2007).

Navigation tabs

The navigation tabs at the top of this page provide access all parts of the resource.

  • Introduction – provides links to background information about NZSL, Deaf culture and parts of this Thumbs Up! resource. 
  • Units – access individual lessons
  • Video gallery – view video clips
  • Resources – downloadable worksheets for use in the classroom

Organisations & Useful tools

MoE logo

Inclusive Education - Guide to Deaf and hard of hearing –supports effective communication and learning across all levels of the curriculum. The Guide to Deaf and hard of hearing provides guidance on understanding being deaf, strategies for action, and key resources.

Students who are deaf or hard of hearing text cover

Students who are deaf or hard of hearing: A resource for educators (June 2016) – examines how being deaf or hard of hearing can influence learning and provides strategies teachers can use in the classroom

Downloadable PDF (1.1MB)

Learn New Zealand Sign Language

LearnNZSL – a free learning portal where you can watch, learn, and practise how to use NZSL in common situations. The site has videos, resources, and exercises.

A pencil drawing of a person signing

New Zealand Sign Language Dictionary – you can undertake a keyword search in Māori and English or a visual search by hand shape and body location.

The Deaf Aotearoa logo shaped like a butterfly

Deaf Aotearoa – provides a range of services for the Deaf Community and information about Deaf Awareness Course and New Zealand Sign Language Courses.

Other resources include the “Lets’ Talk” series, which provides signs to learn for every-day situations, such as Māori concepts, Weekend, and Medical Situations.

Ko Taku Reo Deaf Education New Zealand

Ko Taku Reo/Deaf Education New Zealand – formerly the van Asch Deaf Education Centre, Ko Taku Reo provides education services for deaf and hard of hearing children. Has information for parents, whānau, and educators.

Office for Disability Issues

New Zealand Sign Language Online Hub – The hub within the Office for Disability Issues website. The NZSL Board sets out to promote and New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) and to ensures it is a strong, vibrant language recognised by New Zealand society.

The blue cover of the NZSL Strategy 2018-2023 and a woman signing "NZSL"

NZSL Strategy 2018-2023 – guides the work the NZSL Board needs to promote the use of NZSL by Deaf people and other users. It also intended to guide the NZSL work of government agencies.

The site has a downloadable full-text PDF or Word doc.

Sign Language Interpreters Associate of New Zealand

SLIANZ (The Sign Language Interpreters Associate of New Zealand) – professional organisation that represents and advances the profession. Informs members and consumers and promotes high standards of practice in the field.

The Encyclopedia of New Zealand for the Ministry for Culture and Heritage

Story: New Zealand Sign Language – discover the story of New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL), made an official language New Zealand Sign Language Act 2006.

Sign Language Deaf National Archive New Zealand

SignDNA – Sign Language Deaf National Archive is a project that aims to collect, digitise, and preserve film of New Zealanders using sign language.

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