FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
11 OCTOBER 2023, PRETORIA
PanSALB EXPRESSES CONCERN REGARDING SOUTH AFRICAN SIGN LANGUAGE STATISTICS
The Pan South African Language Board (PanSALB) has taken note of the language statistics released by Stats SA on 10 October 2023 for the Census 2022. According to the statistics, isiZulu is still the most widely spoken language in the country, accounting for 24.4% of the population. It is followed by isiXhosa at 16.3% and Afrikaans at 10.6%. However, PanSALB is concerned about the sharp decline in South African Sign Language, which is a significant issue as it is expected to be implemented as an official language in the country. In 2011, 0.5% of the population used South African Sign Language, which was around 255 000 users in a population of 51 million. However, in Census 2022, the number of South African Sign Language users decreased significantly to 0.02%, which amounts to only 12 400 users in a population of 61 million. PanSALB will engage with Stats SA to understand the discrepancies shown in the statistics for South African Sign Language.
Apart from the decline in the use of South African Sign Language, the statistics provide a comprehensive overview of the languages spoken in the country. PanSALB has also expressed concern over the decreasing number of isiNdebele speakers in schools. Additionally, the matric class of 2022 marked the first class without a single learner registered to learn Siswati in the Gauteng province. PanSALB acknowledges that several factors could be influencing the decline in these languages and will conduct research to determine the reasons behind the decline.
The statistics show a decrease in the number of Afrikaans speakers, from 14.5% in 1996 to 10.6% in 2022, followed by a decrease in isiXhosa speakers. The proportion of English, Xitsonga, and Tshivenda speakers has remained relatively stable. PanSALB also notes the decline in the use of Khoi & San languages and has established community language schools in the Northern Cape, Eastern Cape, Gauteng, and Western Cape to revitalize endangered indigenous languages.
Released on behalf of PanSALB: Ntombentle Huluhulu
Head: Marketing and Communication
Mobile: 061 581 5216