Chalk this up as a major victory for inclusivity: South Africa is set to add a 12th official language to its roster this year, when our domestic version of sign language is added to the list.
South Africa now has a new official language
This means that the deaf community will officially be recognised by the ANC government, and our Constitution will be amended. A public consultation will also take place, meaning that citizens can share their own submissions before sign language gets the official nod of approval.
Cabinet announced on Thursday that they would be rubber-stamping the move. This comes after years of campaigning from interest groups, who have tried desperately to get South African Sign Language (SASL) this iconic distinction.
In other news:— Scapegoat (@AndiMakinana) May 26, 2022
The Cabinet has approved the publication of the Constitution Eighteenth Amendment Bill for public comment.
The amendments will give recognition to the South African Sign Language as the 12th official language of the country.
Sign of the times: What are the 11, soon to be 12, official languages of South Africa?
Once everything is formally signed off by President Cyril Ramaphosa, SA will have a DOZEN official languages. Here’s the new list in full, including both the more prominent and lesser-known dialects of our nation:
- Southern Sotho
- Southern Ndebele
- South African Sign Langauge (SASL)
The most common dialects in Mzansi – and how SASL compares
Using the most recent Census data, the most common first-language spoken in Mzansi is Zulu, with over 22% of South Africans claiming this as their mother tongue. Xhosa is the second-most popular, with 16%, then Afrikaans (13%) and English (9%) following suit.
Sign language is considered the first language of around 250 000 South Africans – or approximately 0.5% of the population. It would be the smallest demographic amongst the 11 other dialects – but it’s worth noting that there are already proposals to teach signing in schools.
Hey, it gets a thumbs-up from us!