South African Sign Language


A language of South Africa

Alternate Names

235,000 (2011 census). Approx. 500,000 (2008 WFD).



Language Status

6a (Vigorous).


Several dialects are used unofficially in different regions. Deaf Federation of South Africa promotes a standardized variety. The North British sign system was used for the deaf in white English-speaking families. In 1881 a school for Afrikaans [afr]-speaking families began using British Sign Language [bfi]. Several dialects are used unofficially in different schools. 9 sign language systems, 60% related to British Sign Language [bfi] or Australian sign languages [asf], few to American Sign Language [ase]. There is a Signed Afrikaans as well.

Language Use

Understood to some degree by most deaf people. First deaf school established about 1846. Now 29 schools for 4,000 children. Some interpreters provided in courts.

Language Development
TV. Dictionary.