The preschool’s love of language is a good sign for Auslan

Yvette Slaughter, professor of language and literacy education at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education, said kindergarten is “a great age to do this because the needs of the children are very immediate – I want to play outside, put on a hat, Wash your hands, snack time, let’s eat fruit – and can very often be indicated by gestures.

“The kids are really good at saying, over time, ‘I know what it is to communicate through my hands, through my gestures, not through my voice.’ ”

Adam Tinkler, of nonprofit Expression Australia, said he hoped the early childhood language program would not only encourage more foreign study among students, but also encourage the employment of deaf people.

Languages ​​in the early childhood language program are taught by educators with language qualifications or by qualified language teachers.

Auslan is taught by a mix of people, from the severely deaf and hard of hearing to children of deaf adults and people who can hear.

The number of Auslan native speakers is not clear as Auslan was only listed as a language option in the census this year. The last census in 2016 showed 11,682 Auslan users. Around one in six Australians has hearing loss.

Santiago from the Coburg Children’s Center learns Auslan from Mrs. Joyce.Credit:Simon Schlueter

Emma McGrath, who manages teacher support for the early childhood language program, said it was “really special” for deaf educators to appreciate their language.

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She said Auslan has gained popularity in kindergartens for a variety of reasons, including being able to easily find teachers and being able to sign at major press conferences and wiggles appearances. “The increasing visibility of Auslan in our society has led many people to think that it is a useful language to learn that our children will have access to this culture and community.”

She said the program gained prominence during the pandemic as families could watch video lessons for themselves.

“It’s something everyone learns together. The parents don’t know more than the children, so the children experience the role of teacher in the family, which is really great. “

Auslan is also increasingly found in primary schools.

It was studied by more than 31,000 students in state elementary and secondary schools and the Victorian School of Languages ​​last year, making it the sixth most popular language.

A spokeswoman for the education ministry said the program has helped more than 12,000 preschoolers learn another language since 2019.

Decisions on the funding of the early childhood language program beyond December 2022 will be made within the state budget for 2022-23.

Andrea is learning Auslan at the Coburg Children's Center.

Andrea is learning Auslan at the Coburg Children’s Center.Credit:Simon Schlueter

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