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Friday, May 6, 2011

Truly a sign of the times

Truly a sign of the times

Last updated 05:00 05/05/2011
The high-profile use of sign language after the Christchurch earthquake has helped normalise signing, says a Christchurch mother.

Both parents of Elizabeth Kay, 27, are deaf and she grew up signing. Her husband, Barry, is also deaf, as is their six-month-old daughter, Natalia.

Kay, who has been a New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) interpreter for about seven years, said growing up with signing made it a normal part of her daily life.

"It's really important to me – without it I wouldn't be able to communicate to the people in my life."

New Zealand Sign Language Week started on Monday.

Kay said sign language was getting more recognition, helped by sign language interpreter Jeremy Borland's televised appearances at the media briefings in the Christchurch Art Gallery after the February 22 earthquake.

"It sort of became the norm as opposed to something people stare at with goggled eyes."

Four weeks after Natalia was born she was diagnosed as deaf.

"It was a little bit surprising because we weren't really expecting it but it's not really a new thing for us," Kay said.

Her daughter has been given hearing aids to which she was adjusting well.

"She loves them on and you can see her responding so much more because suddenly she can hear stuff."

Babies responded to signing more quickly than they did to spoken language, Kay said. She had tried to immerse her daughter in the language.

"My parents said I made my first sign at around six months so that's much earlier than when babies are learning spoken language.

"I can already see Natalia using small signs. It's exactly like baby talk. She sort of bangs her head and makes noises and babbles away."

As part of NZSL Week free classes are being held at various locations in Christchurch. The New Zealand Deaf Short Film Festival also runs on May 6 and 7 at Hoyts Riccarton. More information can be found at

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