As you may already know, reports in late 2021 showed that interest in learning sign language increased by around 250 percent after the fall of Marvel Eternals. This, unsurprisingly, is related to the fact that the film starred hearing-impaired actress Lauren Ridloff as deaf superhero Makkari, and thus, regularly displayed the use of sign language (particularly ASL). or American Sign Language).
Next come equally important examples of representation in Only murders in the building (which had an almost entirely silent episode from the perspective of its deaf character Theo Dimas) and Marvel’s Hawk Eyewhich features a deaf actress Cox of Alaqua like Maya Lopez/Echo.
Finally, at the 2022 Oscars, CODA — a film with a mostly Deaf cast — won Best Picture in a Historic Moment.
Characters like Makkari, Theo, Echo and Frank and Jackie Rossi (from CODA) are particularly exciting to see not only because they showcase the power of representation, but significantly they also highlight that being hard of hearing is only part of their stories.
Following the renewed interest in learning sign language and taking lessons, we contacted the educational department Learn Auslan to see how it has impacted businesses like theirs.
Darren, who has been a professional Auslan (Australian Sign Language) teacher for 18 years, explained that the influence of Makkari’s character in Eternals has been huge, but also that COVID (and supposedly, multiple lockdowns) has also led to increased interest.
He shared that for the past 17 years, he would have struggled to fill even five community classes with 20 students each term. Today, online registrations have jumped to 10 per day.
In addition to this, he shared that Learn Auslan is now also educating children through school programs, “staff from disabled people’s organisations, churches, home schooling, special schools and the many families with deaf children, as well as hundreds of university students from Melbourne Uni, Swinburn, Victoria, ACU and Notre Dame in New South Wales”.
It’s quite incredible.
If you also want to start an Auslan course to learn sign language in Australia, here are some tips, shared by Darren.
What can I expect from taking a sign language course?
Here, Darren explained that most people “find learning Auslan quite easy”, which is certainly encouraging when it comes to learning any language.
Naturally, “it takes time to master Auslan because of the huge number of signs to learn and their variations in context,” Darren explained. But the key takeaway here is that spending a few months learning the basics can go a long way.
“…all students can be expected to be able to sign to a reasonably proficient level by the end of the course and to be able to understand a deaf person signing in a range of work, educational and social settings “Darren explained.
What types of sign language courses are available?
Depending on what you might need to learn Auslan for, there are different courses available. It can be as simple as courses categorized by level of difficulty, but you can also find courses dedicated to things like learning to sign with children or for work. There are even Auslan classes to learn nursery rhymes.
There are also resources available like Auslan Signbankwhich offers an online dictionary, the ability to search for signs related to medical and health topics, and videos of deaf people using the listed Auslan signs.
Can you explain the difference between ASL and Auslan?
If you’ve seen terms used like ASL and Auslan and aren’t sure of the difference between the who, Darren has offered you a quick breakdown.
“Auslan is Australian Sign Language and derives primarily from British and Irish Sign Languages,” he explained.
“We have a two-handed alphabet and mostly sign with two hands. America has American Sign Language and is mostly signed with one hand, as is the alphabet, and the alphabet and signs are very different from Auslan. If you watched someone sign British Sign Language (BSL) (knowing Auslan) you could understand 90% of the signs whereas with ASL maybe only 5-10% of the signs. Some signs of Auslan are taken from ASL, mainly the signs of states, towns or cities.
This probably means that there will be instances where you can see ASL used in major shows and movies, and it won’t really translate to those who use Auslan.
What simple terms or expressions can I use in Auslan?
There are a few places where you can find basic terms that are a great starting point for learning Auslan. The Society of the Deaf has a sheet you can refer to including signs for hello, how are you, where, deaf, no, yes and a list of numbers.
Expression Australia also has a video that walks you through 19 different phrases. You can check that below.
This article has been updated from its original publication date.