Some linguistic features of Auslan are similar to properties found in spoken languages and others are not. For example, the 26 fingerspelled letters of the Auslan alphabet are based on the 26 letters of English. The occasional contact Auslan has with English, such as in relation to mouthing (the use of lip patterns when signing) or fingerspelling, may support the early stages of learning Auslan for some L2 students, as might the apparent visual motivation of some signs. Although indigenous to the Australian Deaf community, Auslan shares some properties with other signed languages, which may make additional signed languages relatively easy to acquire once learners are fluent in Auslan.
Benefits of learning Auslan include:
- development of neural pathways and cognitive processes unique to using a visual language
- greater access to the curriculum using increasingly sophisticated Auslan for L1 learners
- capacity to communicate with peers, friends and family members who use Auslan
- improved capacity for visual-gestural communication
- intellectual interest, engagement and personal challenge
- opportunities for meaningful cross-curricular integration, for example through the use of information and communication technology (ICT)
- access to alternative ways of thinking and expressing ideas
- opportunities to develop and reinforce social justice values
- awareness of deafness as difference rather than as disability
- development of interpersonal skills, access to wider social networks and more diverse experience
- appreciation of the notions of Deafhood, cultural identity and community membership
- increased understanding of inclusion and diversity
- acquisition of a portable mode of communication that involves learning strategies for gesture that may have international, cross-cultural application
- increased understanding of language acquisition, language systems and learning processes
- enhanced development of overall literacy capabilities
- accessibility for some non-traditional learners, students with disability and those who are primarily visual learners.
Deaf students located in schools that offer a L2 Auslan program have increased opportunity to expand their peer networks, potentially increasing their social circle, their resilience and inclusion in the school community. L2 learners learning in a school attended by deaf students have a unique opportunity to use their new language on a daily basis in an authentic context, impacting on accessibility and respect for linguistic and cultural difference.