July 15, 2024

SASL dictionary recording behind the scenes


By Palesa Matlala

The Pan South African Language Board (PanSALB), in partnership with the National Institute for the Deaf (NID), launched a South African sign language (SASL) dictionary in video format at the Iziko Museum in Cape Town on Thursday, September 1 2022.

The dictionary’s aim is to bridge the communication gap between people who are hearing impaired and those who can hear. According to PanSALB communications manager Siphiwe Mabasa, “It has been an honour for PanSALB to be the one authenticating the SASL dictionary and also driving the development and recognition of sign language as an official language in South Africa.”

In an interview with ThisAbility, Dirkie Ebersohn, who is the content development manager at NID, said the SASL dictionary is now available in English and sign language, and it is available to anyone in the world. “You can download the SASL dictionary app on your smartphone, tablet or laptop from Google Play Store or Apple iStore. The SASL dictionary has a subscription fee of R40 per month or R400 per year,” he added.


The SASL dictionary consists of over 3 000 signs which include synonyms and 2 500 English words. Users can search for the English word to see the corresponding SASL sign in clear high-definition video. The video can be slowed down to suit the user’s preference, for example when learning how to sign an entire sentence.

South African sign language fingerspelling poster

It gives one an option to learn one word in two variations, the standardised SASL, and another which uses signs that have been borrowed from other signing communities around the world.


Michelle Batchelor, principal of MCK Special School for the Deaf in Lenasia, south of Johannesburg, told ThisAbility that “The SASL dictionary will further enhance the curriculum of learning sign language and it will strengthen communication skills between our learners and teachers and this is an extraordinary development for the hearing-impaired community.’’

Dirkie Ebersohn the content development manager at NIU
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