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New Zealand Sign Language Week  


New Zealand Sign Language is one of the three official languages of NZ – the other two being English and Maori.


New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) is the natural language of Deaf New Zealanders. It is used daily by more than 20,000 New Zealanders. NZSL became an official language in April 2006.

NZSL is a combination of hand shapes, facial expressions and body movements. NZSL has its own structure and grammar that is different from English.

It is not simply signed representations of spoken words. Each May, Deaf Aotearoa runs New Zealand Sign Language Week. This year it's on May 9th to 15th.


The week is an opportunity for the Deaf community to stand proud as Deaf people and promote their language and culture.

This year marks the 10th NZSL Week and 10 years since NZSL became an official language.


Taster Classes

Deaf Aotearoa provides free 45-minute NZSL Taster Classes to schools throughout May. Just get your teacher to register your school, at www.nzslweek.org.nz. Be quick, because classes are limited!


Events are held throughout New Zealand during NZSL Week – check out www.nzslweek.org.nz to find out what's on in your area.



DESTYN COLEMAN-MENSOURI of Mt Roskill, Auckland, is deaf.

He turns 10 this year and attends Kelston Primary School.

What does being deaf mean to you?

I'm the same as hearing people; I was just born with broken ears, so I need my cochlear implant and hearing aid on to help me hear. Being deaf also means I can help my family and friends learn New Zealand Sign Language – because I'm really good at it!

What's the best part of being deaf and using NZSL?

When I'm in trouble with my mum – I just turn my hearing aid off ! Don't tell her that's my trick! And if I don't want anyone else to know what I'm saying, I can use NZSL. It's like a secret code.

What's one thing you'd like other people to know about being deaf?

I can do anything, just like other people. And it would be really cool if more people learned NZSL, so I could share my ‘secret code' with everyone!

  Destyn Coleman-Mensouri

Tips on how to communicate with a deaf person


✓ DO:

  • Talk face to face
  • Tap them on their shoulder or wave your hand in front of them, to attract their attention
  • Use pen and paper


  • Shout
  • Cover your mouth or look down when you're speaking

Learn online!

Check out Sign Ninja, a cool online game that teaches you New Zealand Sign Language. You'll find it here: www.nzslsignninja.co.nz

You can play Sign Ninja free on computers, tablets and smart phones (Android and iPad/iPhone). Learn from the Sign Master, the Grammar Guru and the Hand Shaper, and shut down the Shouters!


Did you know butterflies are deaf?

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