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Sign Language on its way to becoming official

The Pan South African Language Board (PanSALB) has welcomed steps taken by the Constitutional Review Committee of Parliament to finally recommend that South African Sign Language (SASL) be given official status.

The committee is recommending that section 6 (1) and (5) (a) be amended to include SASL as an official language.

The committee said addressing the proposal for declaring SASL as an official language was long overdue.

It is expected that the necessary formalities will be made by Parliament to ensure the amendment of the Constitution to accommodate this.

“This is indeed a positive response not only for deaf communities but also to the entire country, particularly to those who wish to study Sign Language. 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 blank. This was done on the basis that we believe it has been violated and marginalised compared to other languages,” PanSALB Chief Executive Officer, Dr Rakwena Monareng, said.

Monareng said PanSALB believes that teaching SASL at school level will also regulate and limit the challenges of incorrect Sign Language interpreters, such as the one at the memorial service proceeding of the former and late President Nelson Mandela.

“As it is enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, we believe all languages are equal and that it should all be given the recognition, respect and publicity it deserves. PanSALB is unwavering that this positive response will also help the country in nurturing the unique heritage of multilingualism.”

Monareng also noted that the board is deeply humbled that the response also came at the right time, when the country will be commemorating Deaf Awareness Month in September.

“PanSALB, as the institution that has been mandated to actively promote an awareness of multilingualism as a national resource and previously marginalised languages, believes responses such as this one will assist us in monitoring the development and progress that has been made by government towards the implementation of the Use of South African Official Languages Act of 2012,” Monareng said.

PanSALB is looking forward to working with government to ensure that the provision of SASL becomes a success and contributes immensely to all needy citizens and respects those living with deafness

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