This week, 6-12 May, is NZSL Week. NZSL stands for New Zealand Sign Language, one of our two official languages. The other official language is te reo Māori.

NZSL became an official language in 2006 under the New Zealand Sign Language Act. The purpose of the Act was to recognise NZSL in society and to ensure that the Deaf community could use it in courts. Since 2006 NZSL has become more visible – for example, there are sign language interpreters during press conferences for government announcements. NZSL Week was first celebrated in 2007. It aims to raise awareness of the language and to encourage the Deaf community to be proud of their identity and culture.

Yesterday, on the first day of NZSL Week this year, cabin crew on an Air New Zealand flight used NZSL for the first time for safety announcements and food and drink services. Passengers were encouraged to try to use NZSL, with cards showing the signs for ‘water’, ‘cookie’, and ‘lolly’ placed on seats. Some of the passengers on the flight from Auckland to Wellington were members of the Deaf community who were going to attend the NZSL Awards at Parliament. They reported feeling included and happy to see their language being used. Air New Zealand says that they have been working hard to encourage more employees to use NZSL. The airline worked with the national organisation Deaf Aotearoa to develop a training module with 30 travel-related signs. Now, around 400 Air New Zealand staff have completed the module, and they wear a special pin on their uniform to show that they have learned these signs.

The theme for this year’s NZSL Week is ‘an Aotearoa where anyone can sign anywhere’. If you want to learn some NZSL, look at the information and resources at

If you want to listen to earlier posts about NZSL week, listen to NZ Sign Language Week from 2016.


cabin crew – the people who look after passengers in a plane

cookie – another word for a biscuit

lolly – a hard sweet made of boiled sugar. Air New Zealand usually offers lollies near the end of a flight

module – a unit of study or training