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New Zealand Sign Language or NZSL (Māori: Te Reo Rotarota) is the main language of the deaf community in New Zealand.

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There are 62.5% similarities found in British Sign Language and NZSL, compared with 33% of NZSL signs found in American Sign Language.

Like other natural sign languages, it was devised by and for deaf people, with no linguistic connection to a spoken or written language.

Instead it went to Gerrit Van Asch, who agreed with the Milan congress of deaf educators of 1880 (to which no deaf people were invited) that teaching should be oral only, and that sign language should be forbidden.

(He would not even admit pupils who could sign, so only 14 were admitted.) This was the policy of the school until 1979.

Its vocabulary includes Māori concepts such as marae and tangi, and signs for New Zealand placenames. Rotorua - mudpools, The first non-Polynesian immigrants to New Zealand were from Britain, and those who were deaf brought British Sign Language with them.

The first known teacher of sign language was Dorcas Mitchell, who taught the children of one family in Charteris Bay, Lyttelton Harbour, from 1868 to 1877. When the first school for the deaf (then called the Sumner Deaf and Dumb Institution) was opened at Sumner, south east of Christchurch in 1878, Mitchell applied unsuccessfully for the position of principal.

This programme was first directed and taught by Dr Rachel Locker Mc Kee (hearing) and Dr David Mc Kee (deaf) and came about due to lobbying by the New Zealand Deaf Community and others who recognised the need for safer and more professional interpreting services.

They had as early as 1984 sought support for more research to determine the need for sign language interpreters.

However, the rights and obligations to use the language are restricted to court proceedings.

New Zealand Sign Language has its roots in British Sign Language (BSL), and may be technically considered a dialect of British, Australian and New Zealand Sign Language (BANZSL).

A documentary film about the school made in the 1950s makes no mention of sign language.

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