Kenyan Sign Language


A language of Kenya

Alternate Names

340,000 (2007 Deaf Opportunity Outreach), increasing.


32 primary schools for the deaf in Hola, Kapsabet, Karatina, Karen, Kerugoya, Kilifi, Kisumu, Kitui, Kwale, Meru, Mombasa, Mumias, Murang’a, Nairobi, Nakuru, North Kinangop, Ruiru, Sakwa.

Language Status

5 (Developing).


Mainly unrelated to other sign languages. Standardized with slight variations since 1961, when primary schools for deaf children began. Deaf in Kisumu (western Kenya) and deaf in Mombasa (eastern Kenya) understand each other even with dialect differences. Uganda and Tanzania deaf do not really understand KSL, though they have much in common.


One-handed finger-spelling system similar to French Sign Language [fsl]..

Language Use

Used in court cases involving deaf people. The Kenya National Association of the Deaf has 12 branches. The government uses Kenya Signed English. University of Nairobi backs KSL. Little research. Church, government. Mainly those in schools and over 15 years old. Neutral attitudes.

Language Development
Schools under the Kenya Institute of Education use Kenyan version of (American) Exact Signed English, including 1 at Machakos. KSL used at Nyangoma School at Bondo, a primary and boys’ technical school (Sakwa), and in 1 girl’s school. A school in Mombasa uses British Sign Language [bfi]. Taught in primary and secondary schools. Dictionary. Bible portions: 2010.
Other Comments

4 churches in Nairobi: 2 use Exact Signed English, 1 a mixture of that and KSL, the other uses a mixture of Korean [kvk], American [ase], and Kenyan sign languages. Communication with those who do not know KSL is superficial only. KSL fits Kenyan culture and ties students back to their families and friends who know it.