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Kenyan Sign Language (KSL)
Native to Kenya[1]
Native speakers
340,000  (2007)[2]
Unknown. May have connections to British Sign Language and American Sign Language; some signs from French (Belgian) Sign Language
Language codes
ISO 639-3 xki
Glottolog keny1241[3]

Kenyan Sign Language (English: KSL, Swahili: LAK) is a sign language used by the deaf community in Kenya. It is used by over half of the country's estimated 600,000 deaf population. There are some dialect differences between Kisumu (western Kenya) and Mombasa (eastern Kenya).

Language situation[edit]

As well as Kenyan Sign Language, a number of other languages have been used for instruction in Kenya: Belgian Sign Language (in one school only), British Sign Language (in one school only), American Sign Language,[4] KIE Signed English, and even Korean Sign Language.[1] It is probable that students in these schools use a form of KSL regardless.

A manual alphabet exists mainly from the American Sign Language manual alphabet. However the British manual alphabet was used in the early years.

Status and recognition[edit]

KSL currently has no legal status, but there is a proposal that Kenyan Sign Language (KSL) and Braille should be recognized in the country's new constitution as national and official Languages alongside English and Swahili.

Interpreters are rarely available, and usually 'unqualified' uncertified due to the lack of a training program/certification process.

Kenya Sign Language Interpreters Association[edit]

Kenya Sign Language Interpreters Association[5] was set up by a group of 20 local interpreters after a training by the first Deaf Education US Peace Corps Volunteers in September 2000. Prior to this training there were several short term trainings conducted by KSLRP/KNAD dating back to 1980s and 1990s. [KSLIA][5] is an indigenous initiative evolving and strengthening the face of the Interpreting profession in Kenya. [KSLIA][5] hopes to improve and elevate the standards of Interpreting in Kenya through the following objectives:

a)To secure official recognition by the Government of S.L Interpreters profession

b)Encourage and promote initiatives in improving the standards of SL interpreting and interpreter training and pay scale of interpreters depending with their level and skills of interpretation through certification.

c)Cooperation with other recognized bodies concerned in the welfare of the deaf and in provision of S.L Interpreters throughout the world.

d)Awareness creation on Deafness and SL. Interpreters through publication of information materials

e)To collect and raise funds for the achievement of goals and objectives through membership fee, subscription, contribution, gifts or donations, commissions and payments, fund raising whether in money or otherwise from both members and non members.

f)To maintain and administer a registry of S.L Interpreters in Kenya, enforce a code of ethics and mediate conflict between the Interpreters and their clients.

KSLIA is working towards the establishment of a training program and a certification process for its membership. [KSLIA][5] envisions its role in a three pronged approach - the three C's - Certification of members, Continuing education for the practicing Interpreters and Conflict resolution through enforcement of the Code of Ethics.

Global Deaf Connection, Deaf Aid, and KSLIA[5] have jointly organized a series of trainings aimed at developing a process to provide training, certification and continued professional development for Kenyan Interpreters.

Dictionaries and Education[edit]

A Kenyan Sign Language dictionary was published in 1991. KSLRP working with Peace Corp Volunteers have recently developed an interactive digital dictionary ([KSL Interactive][6])

A new online dictionary and mobile application have been published at www.ksldictionary.com since the year 2014. ([KSL Dictionary] [7]

KSL is not generally used in the classrooms of Kenya's 35 residential boarding schools for deaf students, despite it being their main language, and reportedly literacy in English and Swahili is very low among the deaf community. Since the first deaf schools were established in the 1960s, the teaching staff rarely (if ever) included a deaf person, until a government program in the 1990s (spearheaded by the Kenya National Association of the Deaf) saw two deaf individuals trained and employed as teachers. However, the program is now continued by Global Deaf Connection chaired by Nickson Kakiri. It is based at Machakos Teachers College.

Sign language organizations[edit]

The Kenya National Association of the Deaf (KNAD) is a national non-governmental organisation formed and managed by Deaf people. It was established in 1986 and registered in 1987 under the Societies Act; KNAD is also an ordinary member of the World Federation of the Deaf.

The Kenyan Sign Language Interpreters Association (KSLIA) is a national, non governmental, Society formed and managed by Kenyan Interpreters to promote the development of the Interpreting profession in Kenya and to provide quality Interpretation services for Deaf Kenyans. It was established in September 2000. KSLIA is working on becoming a member of WASLI World Association of Sign Language Interpreters.

Sign Bilingual Schools[edit]

Humble Hearts School in Nairobi, Kisii School for the Deaf and Kenya Christian School for the Deaf at Oyugis uses KSL as the language of instruction. Humble Hearts School is Kenya's first sign bilingual school where KSL and English are taught on an equal par. Kedowa School for the Deaf in Kericho District also uses KSL for instruction, and is unique among Deaf schools in Kenya in that more than half of the teachers at the school are Deaf themselves.


  1. ^ a b Ethnologue report[dead link]
  2. ^ Kenyan Sign Language (KSL) at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  3. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Kenyan Sign Language". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  4. ^ Gallaudet world FAQ[dead link]
  5. ^ a b c d e http://www.kslia.blogspot.com
  6. ^ http://www.peacecorps.gov/index.cfm?shell=learn.whatlike.interactivefeatures.ksl
  7. ^ http://www.ksldictionary.com/


  • Kenyan Sign Language dictionary, Akach, Philemon A. O. Nairobi : KNAD 1991 - 580 p. Language: English

External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenyan_Sign_Language — Please support Wikipedia.
This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia. A portion of the proceeds from advertising on Digplanet goes to supporting Wikipedia.

21 news items

Mon, 31 Aug 2015 11:00:00 -0700

According to one of the pupils who only identified himself as Francis, the deaf community in the country faces a shortage of learning materials such as dictionaries and story books written in the Kenyan sign language. "We need more trained teachers who ...


Sun, 28 Jun 2015 15:06:12 -0700

Learn How to Speak Russian The ELanguageSchool delivers this set of grammar, vocab, and 18 video lessons for learning Russian. Kenyan Sign Language This unique form of communication can be easily picked up, thanks to this free course by the Peace ...
RIT News
Wed, 05 Jan 2011 14:52:30 -0800

In its use by the US Peace Corps in assessing Kenyan Sign Language (KSL), it is labeled the SLPI:KSL. SLPI interviews are recorded and subsequently rated independently by SLPI raters. The basis for ratings is the SLPI Rating Scale, a standard scale ...

I4U News

I4U News
Sat, 21 Feb 2015 16:22:30 -0800

International Mother Language Day is the 15th anniversary of UNESCO's first attempt to celebrate the diversity in language and cultural identity outside of a national identity. This year focused on the detriment of dying languages and education.
The Grio
Wed, 11 Dec 2013 07:47:13 -0800

President Barack Obama delivers his speech next to a sign language interpreter during a memorial service at FNB Stadium in honor of Nelson Mandela on Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013 in Soweto, near Johannesburg. The national director of the Deaf Federation of ...
Christian Broadcasting Network
Thu, 25 Mar 2010 00:00:00 -0700

Yet aside from the drums, only a select few would understand the message, delivered in Kenyan sign language. "Go, paint the doorposts of your house and you will be saved," the message said. This message is in reference to the Passover story from the ...
Voice of America
Wed, 30 Jul 2014 07:55:00 -0700

Another former student, now president of the Kenyan Association of the Deaf, fought to make Kenyan sign language the third official language after Swahili and English in the constitution. Since Gallaudet's International Development program began in ...
Tue, 17 Jan 2012 18:15:00 -0800

However, one of the support staff at the hospital was conversant in basic Kenyan Sign Language and came to her rescue. "Through the interpreter she explained that she was experiencing sharp abdominal pains and the baby had not kicked that day," Ms ...

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