Sign language could soon become SA’s 12th official language as Parliament’s constitutional review committee has recommended it be given official status.
The Pan South African Language Board (PanSALB) said the move was not only positive for deaf communities but also for the entire country‚ particularly for those who wish to study sign language.
"The committee is recommending that Section 6(1) and (5)(a) be amended to include South African Sign Language (SASL) as an official language. The committee accepted that addressing the proposal for declaring SASL an official language was long overdue," PanSALB said on Thursday. "It is expected that the necessary formalities [shall] be made by Parliament to ensure the amendment of the Constitution to accommodate this."
It added: "PanSALB is of the view that SASL, like any other official language, is a fundamental human right that should be treated equally. We have made several crucial calls to government to prioritise sign language, like any other formal language, and efforts have, for a very long time, drawn a blank. This was done on the basis that we believe it has been violated and marginalised compared to other languages‚" said PanSALB’s CEO Dr Rakwena Monareng.
The language board believes teaching SASL from school level will also regulate and limit the challenges of interpreting sign language correctly. "As it is enshrined in the Constitution ... we believe all languages are equal and ... should all be given the recognition‚ respect and publicity [they] deserve," he said.
According to PanSALB‚ the recommendation came at "the right time" as the country will be commemorating Deaf Awareness Month in September. "PanSALB is looking forward to working with the Department of Education to ensure the provision of SASL becomes a success and contributes immensely to all needy citizens and respects those living with a deaf incapacity in the country."