Welcome signs at AUT South Campus

09 Aug, 2016
Lani Wendt-Scanlan

New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) stole the show at a recent diversity event at AUT South Campus.

NZSL interpreter, Lani Wendt-Scanlan, told the audience she was inspired to learn how to sign while caring for a young girl who was Deaf.

“It ignited my passion for the language. It also made me aware that it’s an issue of access for the Deaf community, who miss out on a lot of information that we take for granted,” she says.

“For them, conversations with hearing people are sometimes limited. People tend to get frustrated and start shouting or just walk away. Usually, the only meaningful conversation they have is at home, with family members who can sign, or within the Deaf community.”

NZSL is the third official language of New Zealand. It includes signs for Māori terminology and concepts that are unique to this country. And, it’s used daily by more than 24,000 people.

AUT is the only university in New Zealand where you can study to become a qualified NZSL interpreter.

Wendt-Scanlan graduated with a Diploma in Sign Language Interpreting in 2011. She is currently completing the new Bachelor of Arts majoring in NZSL English Interpreting.

When working at events, she is often approached by people who want to know more about sign language. But, she’s seldom in a position to engage with them.

“I’d like to interact with people, but I can’t take off my ‘interpreter hat’,” she says.

“It’s not about me. It’s about me doing my job to the best of my ability, in order to bridge the communication gap in everyday situations for Deaf and hearing people.”

A NZSL interpreter is available for most public symposiums hosted at AUT South Campus.

“I will always personally try to be there,” says Wendt-Scanlan, who works on campus as the application engagement coordinator.

AUT South Campus is looking to introduce NZSL evening classes in the New Year, pending interest.

The introductory paper would enable students and members of the public alike to communicate in sign language at a simple, practical level. For more information contact: languages@aut.ac.nz

NZSL is a combination of hand shapes, facial expressions and body movements. It has a different grammar to English and is not simply signed representations of spoken words.

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