What is it?

New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) was declared an official language of New Zealand when the New Zealand Sign Language Act 2006 was passed.

There are approximately 11,000 deaf people who use NZSL as their primary form of communication. English is not their first language. And there are approximately a further 10,000 people who also use NZSL, including parents who use NZSL to communicate with their deaf child. NZSL has its own grammatical structure which enables users to communicate fully and express thoughts and emotions. It differs from spoke languages because it is solely visual and requires motion picture to capture.

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 clear access to your information means NZSL users can be better informed about your products or services.

Interpreting vs Translation

Sign Language Interpreting and Sign Language translation are different.

Sign Language interpreters relay information in real-time and is ideal for time-critical situations such as emergencies and public-speaking events. Because the information is relayed in real-time, the Sign Language interpreter needs to quickly think of the best way to present the information whilst also listening ahead to what the speaker is currently saying. Occasionally information may originally be misinterpreted but can later be rectified by the interpreter. This allows for the Deaf Community to have access to information at the same time as their hearing peers.

Sign Language translation is not done in real-time. The content is provided to the translation team for them to analyse and consider the best way to present the content. The translated product may include additional accessibility features such as on-screen graphics, closed-captions and voice-over. The information is presented in a studio at a comfortable pace (unless the translation is part of a split-screen or Picture in Picture production) and can be filmed again with several takes to ensure that the final edit is free of errors.


Translating your content into New Zealand Sign Language requires careful planning and advice. Deaf Aotearoa is the only Disabled People’s Organisation (DPO) with a mandate to represent the Deaf Community in New Zealand.

At Deaf Aotearoa, we have staff all over New Zealand, meeting with the Deaf Community and communicating in New Zealand Sign Language every day. We understand the needs of the Deaf Community and can provide advice on the delivery of your content in New Zealand Sign Language. There may be projects where we will advise that the content be rearranged so that it can be better understood by the Deaf Community. We may also advise that some information be re-prioritised or even omitted.

If you have information you wish to have translated in New Zealand Sign Language, contact our translation team for advice.


At Deaf Aotearoa we have a diverse translation team of native NZSL users from all over New Zealand working with qualified NZSL interpreters to provide you with a translation in NZSL.

We ensure that the content that you provide us is delivered in a format that works for NZSL users. NZSL has it’s own grammatical structure and we ensure that your information is accessible and is delivered in a way that is understood by the majority of NZSL users.

We also have access to studios with a green screen and a video editing suite to be able to develop a video resource that matches the look and feel that you need. We will work with you to ensure that our videos work for you and your audience. We can offer a NZSL translation video with or without audio, Picture in Picture, closed captioning and voice-over. Video files can be privately shared so that you are able to upload to your own website or social media channels.

The process

  • Contact the translation team at: translation@deaf.org.nz and request advice on content to be translated.

  • We will provide advice on the client’s content and invite them to request a quote.

  • A request for a quote is submitted to the translation team and we will provide a quote.

  • Once the quote has been accepted, we will start working on the content getting it ready for filming. We will also request any supporting graphics for use in post-production.

  • The content is broken down, rearranged and translated into gloss format.

  • The presenter and film studio is booked for filming and recording.

  • The recording is taken into post-production to be edited.

  • The first edit is shared with the translation team for feedback.

  • After feedback from the translation team, the second edit is sent to the client.

  • Final version is privately shared and ready for distribution.

* 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