It was a long time coming, but on Wednesday, 19 July, Cyril Ramaphosa, the South African president, officially recognised South African Sign Language as South Africa’s 12th official language.
This makes South Africa only the fourth country in Africa to recognise sign language as an official language and, according to Dr Keaobaka Seshoka, director of the Language Directorate at the North-West University (NWU), it is a belated but very welcome addition to the country’s official language family.
“The addition of sign language as one of South Africa’s official languages is long overdue. It has been a need in South Africa, and I think we have to be serious about making sure that we are as inclusive as possible in terms of language matters. The NWU is a multilingual institution, and multilingualism means being inclusive. This also means that we must have the resources to cater for all our language needs, and this includes those of South African Sign Language. Therefore, we are at the forefront of ensuring we walk the talk,” said Seshoka.
“We as South Africans need to make a concerted effort to learn sign language too so that we can converse in sign language and are inclusive in all our gatherings and events by making sure that sign language plays a role.”
She also expressed her gratitude on behalf of the NWU and the Language Directorate for the official inclusion of sign language.
“It gives me great pleasure to welcome South African Sign Language as part of South Africa’s official language family. The value you add to the lives of our deaf community cannot be overemphasised, and it is imperative that we as a society continue to find more ways to promote accessibility and the quality of life of every citizen of our beautiful country. At the Language Directorate it is our purpose, mission and – most importantly – our cherished responsibility to promote our national languages and ensure the best possible experience to our NWU community. I am proud to say that the NWU makes use of sign language interpreters, among a host of other interpretation and translation aids, and we will continue to advance our own capabilities to further broaden the horizon of every student at the NWU,” said Seshoka.
Welcome to South Africa’s 12th official language. It all starts here.
Dr Keaobaka Seshoka