What is NZSL?

New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) is the language of New Zealand’s deaf community and was made an official language by the New Zealand Sign Language Act 2006.

NZSL can express concepts from both English and te reo Māori but is itself a distinct language.

NZSL has a distinct vocabulary and grammar that has developed in the deaf community. Signs express concepts, and grammatical and expressive meaning is conveyed by movements of the face, head and upper body. A fingerspelled alphabet is used mainly for proper nouns and terms that have no equivalent sign.

New Zealand Sign Language – Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand

Points to remember about NZSL

  • NZSL is a true natural language 
  • NZSL does not interfere with the development of spoken English
  • NZSL is not based on English or other spoken languages
  • NZSL is not a universal “Deaf” language.
  • NZSL is not mime or gesture