Can you speak SA’s twelfth official language?

Can you speak SA’s twelfth official language?

In an inclusive move, South African Sign Language (SASL) has been acknowledged as the country’s 12th official language.

When the South African Sign Language Bill was signed into law in July 2023, the presidency said recognising SASL as the 12th official language is an important step in realising the rights of people who are deaf or hard of hearing. 

With September being Deaf Awareness Month, the Language School at Wits Plus shares the importance of raising awareness and the courses it offers for people wanting to expand their knowledge of SASL. 

The aim of Deaf Awareness Month

The World Federation of the Deaf first launched International Day of the Deaf in 1958, which has been observed every year since then.

Every September, the spotlight is turned on this important language that helps deaf people communicate, preventing their social exclusion and making society more accessible to everyone. 


According to this Wits Plus Language School timeline, the development of SASL dates back to 1863.

Deaf people not only use SASL to interact with each other, but to pass on cultural knowledge — making the language a defining aspect of belonging to deaf culture. 

Many hearing people communicate through sign language with their children, friends, family and colleagues who are deaf.

Interacting with a deaf person

Here are some do’s and dont’s when interacting with a deaf person:

  • Face the person directly and maintain eye contact when speaking to them. 
  • Don’t turn around, move away, or look elsewhere while speaking to a deaf person. 
  • Speak clearly and make sure that your mouth movement is natural. 
  • Don’t speak if they’re not looking at you. 

SASL courses available at Wits Plus Language School 

The Language School at Wits Plus offers a number of SASL courses, from level one to level three.

The course facilitators are first language proficient and have been trained to teach both hearing and non-hearing students. SASL courses are offered part-time and run over 10 weeks.

Click here for more information about the courses and upcoming intakes.

This article was sponsored by Wits Plus. 

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