Auslan Interpreter or Captioning: Best Practice for the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Community - Speak Your Language | Australia

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Auslan Interpreter or Captioning: Best Practice for the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Community

Posted on: July 20, 2023 by admin

When planning an event or conference, you might be considering whether to organise an Australian Sign Language Interpreter, whether to provide captioning or if it is best to simply give a transcript of the expected speeches. Knowing the best practice for the Deaf and Hard of hearing community is crucial to many events, considering there are approximately 30,000 deaf Australians and a further 1 in 6 people are hard of hearing or otherwise affected by hearing loss. Due to this demand and our desire to have continuous progress, Speak Your Language provides an Australian Sign Language (Auslan) interpreting service to assist the Australian Deaf community. Our accredited team can provide on-site and online Auslan interpretation for a wide spectrum of activities, from the boardroom to seminars and beyond. 

What is the Importance of Sign Language?

Sign languages are not a direct translation of spoken languages. They are a complete language in and of themselves and were created based on the interaction of sign users. Likewise, Australian Sign Language is not a direct evolution of Australian English, and it also has clear differences from both British Sign Language and American Sign Language. Auslan consists of specific linguistic elements with hand shapes and movements, requires reliance on facial expression and posture to convey tone, includes fingerspelling, and even features its own grammar system. Auslan interpreting is key in capturing tone and nuance, much like how other spoken language interpreters can convey this to their listeners. In many cases, Deaf people learn Auslan as their first language and only learn English as a second later in life. Auslan can be the preferred choice of some Deaf people who have experienced language deprivation early in life and might not fully understand English captions. Overall, it is dependent on the fluency of the person in English or Auslan to determine their choice.

What is the Importance of Captioning?

Captioning, as opposed to subtitles, is when the spoken words and audio information are both transcribed into a text representation of that language. In film, closed captions would describe the tone of the music, the lyrics, and any other sounds that might occur, whereas subtitles will only include the lyrics of the song. Captioning is preferred to subtitles by those who are Deaf or hard of hearing as it may include information that they might otherwise miss. Captioning is a great and helpful option for those with hearing loss, as the captions might be able to supplement their hearing and allow them to fully engage with the event. Those who became deaf or hard of hearing after they were fluent in spoken and written English may never have learned Auslan or simply might be more confident in understanding captions. Like using Auslan, it is all dependent on the fluency of the listener to determine which method they prefer.

What is the Importance of Transcripting?

Transcripts are records of all that is said and discussed during a live event. They are a great option to give people, as it can help them further engage with the topics after the fact, and can aid in supplementing information they might have missed. However, they are not considered to be the best option to provide for Deaf and hard-of-hearing people as they are not able to provide information while it is live. Your event is not accessible if the community can not be engaged during the event itself. 

Auslan, Captioning, or Transcripts?


  • Auslan can be incredibly helpful in conveying tone, and nuance, and ensuring ultimate understanding for the Deaf and HOH community at your event.
  • Captions can be a helpful tool for anyone who is not fluent or confident in their understanding of Auslan and can allow them to fully engage with the conversation as it is happening.
  • Transcripts can be a helpful tool for any information that was missed during the event.


  • Not every member of the Deaf and hard-of-hearing community is fluent in Auslan
  • Captions are not ideal for slower readers or anyone who speaks Auslan and is less fluent in English
  • Transcripts do not translate the happenings of the event directly to anyone and are not acceptable accessibility for any event

What is Best Practice?

It is always best practice to ensure your event is fully accessible for everyone of differing backgrounds and preferences. Providing both Auslan interpreting services and live captioning will allow all Deaf and hard-of-hearing attendees to enjoy the event in whichever capacity they prefer.

Contact Speak Your Language today for professional translation services in Auslan and over 140 other languages.