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SA to get 12th official language

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The Cabinet has approved the publication of the Constitution Eighteenth Amendment Bill for public comments, which will pave the way for South African Sign Language to become an official language.

President Cyril Ramaphosa and sign language interpreter Andiswa Gebashe during a national address at the Union Buildings. File picture: GCIS

PRESIDENT Cyril Ramaphosa’s Cabinet has approved the publication of the Constitution Eighteenth Amendment Bill for public comments, which will pave the way for South African Sign Language to become an official language in the country.

The bill amends Section 6(1) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa of 1996, which proclaims that South Africa’s 11 official languages are Sepedi, Sesotho, Setswana, siSwati, Tshivenda, Xitsonga, Afrikaans, English, isiNdebele, isiXhosa and isiZulu.

The amendments will now give recognition to South African Sign Language (SASL) as the 12th official language of the country.

Minister in the Presidency Mondli Gungubele said Cabinet decided that this move will advance its cultural acceptance and affirm equal rights for all South Africans, irrespective of their disabilities.

The Department of Basic Education already recognises the SASL as a home language.

Gungubele was delivering a post-Cabinet briefing on Thursday when he revealed Cabinet’s latest decision.

Last year, the Minister of Arts and Culture, Nathi Mthethwa, said the department and the Pan South African Language Board (Pansalb) were working with the Department of Justice in ensuring that this constitutional amendment was effected.

According to the government, South Africa has a well-established deaf community with more than four million deaf and hard of hearing people.

South African Sign Language has its own grammatical structure independent of any spoken/written language such as English, Zulu, and Xhosa. Despite regional differences and variations, SASL has the same grammatical structure countrywide, however, there is not a one-to-one relationship between SASL and English.

According to the South African National Deaf Association (Sanda), children should have their hearing tested several times throughout their schooling:

* When they enter school

* At ages 6, 8, and 10

* At least once during Grades 8 or 9, and at least once during Grades 10 to 12.

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