Northland’s Alana Best encourages Kiwis to try their hand at signing for NZ Sign Language Week 2024

Publish Date
Monday, 6 May 2024, 9:47AM
Te Tai Tokerau - Northland Deaf Society president Alana Best. Photo / Michael Cunningham

Te Tai Tokerau - Northland Deaf Society president Alana Best. Photo / Michael Cunningham

New Zealand Sign Language Week kicks off today, and with it comes the call for Kiwis to try their hand at one of New Zealand's national languages.

New Zealand Sign Language became our third official language in 2006, joining English and Māori. 

Northlander Alana Best, who was born deaf, believes people are out of their comfort zone when it comes to giving the language a go.

Alana was 10 months old when her parents found out she was deaf. By 1, she had hearing aids.

And while her parents feared for their younger daughter’s future, they did everything possible to make sure opportunities wouldn’t pass her by.

Her entire family - including cousins, aunties, and uncles - learned Signed English, where every word of a spoken sentence is signed.

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Later in life, they shifted to New Zealand Sign Language, which includes te reo and unique Kiwi concepts.

Growing up signing was natural and normal to Alana. It wasn’t until she was about 4 that she realised she was different.

One day, while at kindergarten with her older sister and mum, she noticed their mouths were moving and the looks on their faces told her they understood each other. But how? They weren’t signing.

“I asked mum why she wasn’t using sign language and mum said, ‘We’re using our voices’.”

Alana has championed a typical life. She attended mainstream schools, earned a Bachelor of Science, became a fully qualified teacher and taught in Auckland up until last year.

She hopes that people either pluck up the courage to learn the basics of New Zealand Sign Language or help deaf loved ones access language so they don’t have to face barriers caused by silence.

She said she often looks for expressive people and those who won’t be frightened of her while out and about.

The attitude of Kiwis towards sign language is a stark contrast to people abroad.

Alana has travelled around the world and says the Italians and French are great at trying sign language, “Then you come back to New Zealand and people are quite timid.

“Attitudes definitely need to change,” she said. “People need to be more open-minded."

Give sign language a go this NZ Sign Language Week!

Deaf Aotearoa have made this handy poster teaching you how to say 'My name is..."

For more resources about NZ Sign Language Week, head to or Deaf Aotearoa's website -

This article was first published by the NZ Herald by and is republished here with edits and permission.

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