The first-ever online South African Sign Language (SASL) dictionary was launched by the Pan South African Language Board (PanSALB), in partnership with the Western Cape Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport (DCAS), in Cape Town on Thursday, 01 September 2022.
Available as both a smart device app and via a desktop computer, the dictionary allows users to view videos and translations of hundreds of words and sentences being signed in SASL.
The launch comes at a significant time in South African history, with Section 6(1) of the Constitution set to be amended to recognize SASL as the 12th official language of the Republic.
Minister of Cultural Affairs and Sport, Anroux Marais, says DCAS “is committed to supporting and promoting the development and use of SA Sign Language in our province”.
“As part of our department’s vision, we aim to create a society that is inclusive and that fosters social cohesion. A big part of that vision is to ensure that we can promote the use of our official languages, including SA Sign Language. The move towards declaring SA Sign Language as our 12th official language will mean that the world will be opened up so much more to our deaf community and that we are more inclusive in all that we do.”
“The launch of this dictionary is a great step in making SA Sign Language more accessible to everyone across our province. We are proud to have been able to be part of the process and support the development of this dictionary. It is wonderful to see these kinds of initiatives being driven to promote sign language. I am also excited about the fact that this dictionary is a product that is available electronically on mobile devices. This means that the dictionary can be carried along on your phone and isn’t a separate publication. This is a very innovative way to capitalize on the fact that many of us have our phones with us at all times and so it ensures that you can always have the dictionary at hand,” said Minister Marais.
All of the phrases and words in the new dictionary were provided by the National Institute for the Deaf (NID), after thorough research that took different dialects and colloquialisms into account.
Thursday’s launch also celebrated the start of Deaf Awareness Month. Minister Marais said it was an important time to discuss inclusion for the deaf community.
“As we are also celebrating Deaf Awareness Month, it is very important that we discuss issues of inclusion for our deaf community. There are many ways that we can ensure we make experiences accessible for those who cannot hear and we must start looking at innovative ways to provide this accessibility. My department is committed to ensuring that we support organisations and individuals in promoting and accessing information in SA Sign Language,” she said.
“In the Western Cape, we are privileged to have a dynamic and passionate team working with us to ensure that we are accessible to all. This includes using sign language interpreters at our events and looking at ways of developing new information and content to assist us in being more inclusive. I would like to thank the Pan South African Language Board, as well as the National Institute for the Deaf, for the work that they have done in developing this dictionary, but also for the continuous role they play in promoting SA Sign Language. You are valued partners to the Department and we appreciate all that you are doing to ensure that all our official languages are developed and promoted.”
The SASL dictionary app can be downloaded via the Google Play store or on the Apple App Store. Or, visit Learnsasl.com via a web browser.
Acting Spokesperson to Minister Anroux Marais
Tel: 076 093 4913