More resources needed to promote and maintain New Zealand Sign Language

People communicating using sign language.
More than 20,000 in New Zealand use sign language. Photo credit: Getty

New Zealand Sign Language's (NZSL) place in our world is being celebrated on Monday. 

It's International Day of Sign Languages, and the event is being marked by several groups, as well as the Government.

Deaf Aotearoa's chief executive Lachlan Keating says the language has had a troubled history.

"New Zealand Sign Language is defined as a threatened language, it's a minority language - we need more resources to promote and maintain NZSL."

Since being made an official language in 2006, NZSL has been growing in popularity, says Keating. However, the country still has a long way to go.

"Interpreter numbers are scarce, the numbers are static - we're sitting at about 100 interpreters working across New Zealand, and that number has been the same for some time now."

In Census 2013 more than 20,000 people reported using NZSL, and the New Zealand dialect of sign language is one of the few to be recognised as an official language. 

Keating says there is still more that can be done - particularly in education.

"Ensuring that children have access to NZSL and as well as the children, obviously their families and their friends and their close connections need to have access to NZSL."

According to Deaf Aotearoa, NZSL is the 12th most frequently used language out of around 190 currently used in New Zealand.