Translation Service

There are approximately 20,000 people who can use NZSL, this figure includes both deaf people and hearing people such asparents and family members, friends and NZSL interpreters. Approximately 4,500 deaf people who use NZSL as their primary form of communication. English is not their first language.

NZSL has its own grammatical structure which enables users to communicate fully and express all thoughts and emotions. It differs from spoken languages because it is solely visual and requires motion picture to capture. NZSL is not signed English words in English-word-order, and this coupled with the fact that many deaf adult have experienced barriers to their education, means that English is like a second language for many Deaf people.

NZSL Translation provides access and participation for the Deaf Community by providing clear communications for those whose primary language is New Zealand Sign Language. Providing access to your information in NZSL means Deaf people can be better informed about your information or services.

Interpreting vs Translation

NZSL interpreting and NZSL translation are different.

NZSL interpreters relay information in real-time and interpreting is essential for time-critical situations such as emergencies and public-speaking events. Because the information is relayed live in real-time, the NZSL interpreter needs to quickly think of the best way to present the information spoken a few seconds ago whilst also processing what the speaker is currently saying. Very occasionally information may be misinterpreted that can later be rectified by the interpreter. NZSL interpreting allows the Deaf Community to have access to live information at the same time as their hearing peers.

NZSL translation deals with “frozen text”, that is information that is written or recorded on video and is not live. . The written/recorded content is able to be more carefully analysed to consider the best ways to present the content. The NZSL translated product may include additional accessibility features such as on-screen graphics/pictures, closed-captions and voice-over. Translated information is usually presented in a studio setting allowing a comfortable pace.


Translating your written/recorded content into NZSL initially requires consultation and advice. Deaf Aotearoa is the government-recognised, national Disabled Persons Organisation (DPO) with a mandate to represent the interests of the New Zealand Deaf Community..

We provide advice on how best to make your information accessible to the Deaf community. We consider the content of your information; any contextual information on that content available in NZSL; the life experiences and diversity of the Deaf community; and any changes to the information format required when translating written information into video format in NZSL – a few pages of written English can translate into a lengthy NZSL video that few would watch and it may not render the information “accessible”.

At Deaf Aotearoa, we have a NZSL Translation team that includes Deaf staff all over New Zealand, meeting with the Deaf Community and communicating in NZSL every day. We have an intimate and in-depth understanding of the needs of our diverse Deaf Community and provide advice on how best to make your information accessible to the widest possible audience of Deaf people.

If you have information you wish to have translated into NZSL please contact our NZSL Translation team for advice and a discussion.

If you are a government agency we recommend coming to us via the All-of-Government Alternate Formats processes coordinated by the Ministry of Social Development at

How does it work?

First Signs is provided through a mix of home visits and web-based support from Deaf Aotearoa Facilitators.

Visits can be weekly, fortnightly or monthly depending on the family’s needs. Visits can be at home, or even at the park!

First Signs provides information and resources and always respects each family’s decisions.

First Signs:

  • Supports and monitors NZSL language development
  • Works with Advisors on Deaf Children (AODC) and other professionals involved with the family, e.g.: cochlear implant programme, audiologists, Deaf Education Centre staff
  • Supports transition to ECE and/or school.

The process

Contact the translation team at: and request advice on content to be translated OR if you are a government agency contact the All-of-Government Alternate Format group at the Ministry of Social Development:

  • We will work with you to understand the information you want translated
  • We provide an estimate for the work
  • We provide you with the best advice on how to make your information accessible to the widest possible audience of Deaf people. This often involves working out how best to summarise and/or break up the information into a series of short videos, and we propose how to do this providing opportunities for your feedback and input.
  • Pre-production usually includes the development of a NZSL gloss script and any checking and discussions on the best ways to sign and present the information in NZSL
  • Production is usually in one of our green-screen studios and our presenters are Deaf people
  • Post-production includes editing and adding on any graphics, banding, logos, captions, and/or audio.
  • The final product is delivered and distributed as requested.

*We include quality assurance processes at each step of pre-production, production and post-production that can include discussions with senior NZSL interpreters around interpretation of difficult or loaded English words and concepts.

* We recommend a minimum of 4 weeks lead-time for NZSL translations to ensure your content is ready for your deadline. Larger translation projects may require more time.

Contact us for advice or a quote

Skip to content