Auslan is a visual-gestured language that uses distinct movements called "signs" instead of spoken or written components called "words". These movements include shapes made with the hands and arms, eyes and facial expressions, and head and body postures. The language is supplemented by finger spelling which is the spelling of words with the fingers representing letters in the alphabet. Auslan, just like any other language - oral or written - is a communication tool.
Approximately 20,000 Australian deaf people use Auslan in their daily lives.
Auslan is the native (first) language used by many deaf people in Australia, including deaf people who have deaf parents and in some cases hearing children of deaf people. Auslan is also the primary language of many deaf people in Australia who do not have deaf parents but who have learned Auslan at a later stage.
Auslan is recognised as a language in its own right. Auslan was recognised as a language by the federal government in 1981.
Auslan is a sign language that was developed by deaf people over many generations of usage, from the British Sign Language and home made signs. As in all countries where there is a dominant majority language which is the official language, the minority language is often influenced by the majority language - the most obvious example of the influence of English on Auslan is the use of finger spelling.
However, Auslan is not based on the English grammatical system. Auslan has its own grammar and syntax. In fact, its structure has more in common with Chinese or French than with English.