Sign Language Isn't Just for Our Deaf Whānau

I'm going to take a leap and share something from my heart. I often share our NZSL (New Zealand Sign Language) journey with Hope as a baby and toddler but we actually used NZSL for the first time when our precious second daughter, Tara, lost her ability to speak because of a terminal brain tumour. She reckoned she only needed five signs to get by; please, thank you, food, drink and I love you. She was amazing and sharing just a few simple signs with her gave her the ability to connect with all of us.

Tara "I love you"

Hope "ngeru/cat"

There are loads of people who use NZSL who aren't deaf. My husband was chatting to a psychologist at a recent conference about my books, and she was really interested that we'd used NZSL with our toddler, Hope, before she could verbally communicate. She had also used NZSL with two of her three children; one who was temporarily deaf from severe glue ear and one who had a cleft palate which badly affected his speech. She'd found NZSL a real gift, just as we had with Tara and later with Hope.

NZSL is a taonga, a treasure, developed by the deaf community for the deaf community first. Now it has been made an "official" language of New Zealand and through the love and generosity of the kaitiaki (guardians) of this language, it has been gifted to so many other people to use. THANK YOU to those fluent NZSL users, specialist teachers and tutors who share it with regular kiwis throughout Aotearoa and kiwis who need another tool in their communication toolbox. And thank you to the deaf community for patiently waiting for me to sign the letters of my name or remember how to introduce myself, or offer tea or coffee in an attempt to peek into your world and connect with you! I want to honour the languages of this amazing country of ours, so I'm on a journey to learn NZSL and Te Reo Māori. I'm at the start of my journey, this journey of language learning and connection with the first language of this land and the first language of most deaf people in Aotearoa. I hope you'll bear with me as, like a toddler, I learn new words, stumble and fall and make mistakes. Please kindly and gently correct me along the way, just as I would the little people in my whānau. My heart is in it, with yours.

xx Jen

P.s for more about the benefits of using NZSL with your baby/toddler, click HERE

“Love is doing things for people, not just saying it.”

Tara Grace Mary Chapman

22.11.2006 - 28.3.2014

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