Sign Language is a naturally occurring language which develops as a result of the need to communicate among members of Deaf communities. Sign Language is a language that occurs in the visual-gestural modality. This means it is produced using the hands, face, head and upper torso and is processed by the eyes. In contrast, spoken languages are produced using the mouth, tongue and vocal chords and are processed by the ears.

Different Sign Languages have developed in different countries where Deaf communities exist, for instance British Sign Language (BSL), American Sign Language (ASL), Ethiopian Sign Language (ESL), South African Sign Language (SASL), etc. Sign Language is not universal or international as many people incorrectly believe. Sign Languages are living languages made by real people - the Deaf - making them dynamic, constantly changing and developing, like any natural human language which is capable of developing new vocabulary when needed.

(Introduction by DEAFSA)

2011 South African Census: 234 655 Sign language home language speakers

The Central Statistical Services (CSS) estimates that there are approximately 412 421 profoundly deaf people and approximately 1 237 264 extremely heard-of-hearing people in the country. While I. Bester from the SABC has noted that there may even be around 2 million people in South Africa that regard Sign Language as their first language. (While the number of Deaf and heard-of-hearing people are estimated at 5 million). (Kruger, 2000:35)

According to Ethnologue: 12,100 deaf persons including 6,000 Black, 2,000 English white, 2,000 Afrikaans white, 1,200 Coloured, 900 Indian (1986 Gallaudet Univ.)


Internet Links
DEAFSA - coordinating, umbrella organization which facilitates services to the South African deaf and hard of hearing communities.
Ethnologue: South African Sign Language
Sign Writing in South Africa

KRUGER, J.-L., VERHOEF, M.M. & KOTZE, H. 2000. Subtitling in South Africa. Pretoria : PANSALB (Unpublished report).

J. Olivier (2012)