Friday, June 24, 2011

New Zealand Sign Language goes digital

New Zealand’s third official language has become more accessible with the launch of the Online Multimedia Dictionary of New Zealand Sign Language: http//
Victoria University’s Deaf Studies Research Unit, which produced the first dictionary of New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) in 1997, has created an online dictionary with about 4,000 NZSL signs, accompanied by line drawings and video clips to show how to produce each sign and how the signs are used in context.

The dictionary, launched today at Victoria University, is a resource for deaf people, their families, professionals, learners and teachers of NZSL. It will be available as a reference tool to a wide range of people in New Zealand and overseas.

“This is a unique national resource that enables public access to New Zealand’s third official language,” says Dr David McKee, Director of the Deaf Studies Research Unit at Victoria. “The development of an online, bilingual dictionary raises the public profile and accessibility of NZSL for all New Zealanders.”

The website will be launched by the Governor General His Excellency the Right Honourable Sir Anand Satyanand. 

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) Professor Penny Boumelha says the online dictionary continues a tradition of Victoria leading the way in championing NZSL.

“Since the mid 1980s, Victoria University has led research and documentation of NZSL. This work has made a significant contribution to achieving recognition of NZSL as an official language in 2006, and to improving societal understanding of the NZSL community.”

“As we have seen in the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquakes, sign language has provided crucial assistance to New Zealand's deaf community during press conferences. Access to information becomes a precious commodity in times of civil emergency, making this new website an invaluable resource.”

The new online dictionary builds on the pioneering work of Professor Graeme Kennedy who edited the first dictionary of NZSL in 1997 and also founded the Deaf Studies Research Unit.

“Since the first Dictionary of NZSL was produced, sign language dictionary making has moved towards an electronic medium, which is ideally suited to the dynamic nature of sign language,” says Dr McKee.

Partner organisations in the project are the Auckland University of Technology School of Languages and Social Sciences, Kelston and van Asch Deaf Education Centres, and Deaf Aotearoa New Zealand.

The project is funded by the Tertiary Education Commission Encouraging Innovation Fund.

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