Sign Language Course

Eden Language Academy offers Sign Language courses on both basic and intermediate levels.

South African Sign Language

South African Sign Language (SASL) is the official sign language used by Deaf people in South Africa. The South African government has not yet made it one of the official languages of South Africa although it is estimated that up to 2 million people speak it. There are as many as twelve distinctly different dialects of sign language in South Africa.

In 1995, the previous South African National Council for the Deaf (SANCD) was transformed into the Deaf Federation of South Africa (DeafSA), which resulted in a radical policy change in matters for deaf people in South Africa, such as the development and adoption of a single sign language and the promotion of sign language over oralism.  Schools for the deaf have however remained largely untransformed, and different schools for deaf children in South Africa still use different sign language systems, and at a number of schools for the deaf the use of any sign language is either discouraged or simply not taught. There are around 40 schools for the Deaf in South Africa, most using a variety of SASL.

In addition to South African sign languages, American Sign Language (ASL) is also used by some Deaf people in South Africa.  Most local sign languages in South Africa show influence of German and American Sign Language. SASL is the sign language that is used during television news casts in South Africa.  Sign language is also used in the South African parliament, but different sign language interpreters are known to use different signs for the same concepts. “Sign language” is mentioned in the South African constitution, and the South African Schools Act permits the study of “sign language” in lieu of an official language studied at school.

South African Sign Language is not entirely uniform and continues to evolve. Due to the geographical spread of its users and past educational policies, there are localized dialects of South African Sign Language and signs with many variants. Daily TV broadcasts in sign language give today’s South African Sign Language its national cohesion and unity.

The number of deaf people in South Africa (600,000 deaf and 1.4 million people with hearing loss) does not give an accurate depiction of the number of people who communicate in South African Sign Language. There is currently no estimate for the number of people who communicate in South African Sign Language in South Africa.  Estimates vary greatly, from 700,000 to 2 million users.  A request was made to the Human Sciences Research Council (South Africa) to measure this as part of the 2011 census.

Basic Sign Language Course Outline & Learning Outcomes

Module 1: The language & the alphabet

  • How to learn Sign Language and how to use the dictionary supplied
  • Fingerspelling
  • Practising spelling words relevant to the officials’ working environment

Module 2: Greetings & courtesies

  • What is a Sign-Name?
  • Meeting someone for the first time, greetings
  • Why doesn’t everyone sign the same way? Dialects
  • Could my behaviour offend the Deaf?
  • Role playing greetings of different cultures

Module 3: Handshape, location, movement & orientation

  • Practising using One-handed, Two-handed and Double-handed signs
  • Practising common SASL hand shapes

Module 4: Grammar & tenses

  • The Signing Space
  • Past tense and future tense
  • Practise using the Signing Space Theatre

Module 5: Classifiers, questions & negation

  • Classifiers – context and placement
  • Questions – yes/ no, WH (e.g. who, what?), rhetorical, negative, conditional IF questions)
  • Role-play, interviewing

Module 6: My environment

  • The body
  • Work & home
  • Colours
  • Time
  • Months of the year
  • Seasons
  • Role-playing conversations related to the working environment

Module 7: The mouth, iconicity & temporal aspects

  • Mouth morphemes
  • Mouthing words
  • Practising using mouthing in conjunction with Sign Language

Module 8: Pronouns

  • Singular, plural
  • Indexing
  • Absent referent
  • Gender
  • Possessive pronouns
  • Sentence building, communicating

Module 9: Conversations

  • Practising short-cuts
  • Role shifting
  • Acting/ gesturing
  • Topics
  • Eye contact
  • Ways to converse

Module 10: Understanding deafness

  • Causes
  • Consequences

Module 11: Sign Language culture

  • History
  • Terminology
  • Rules of behaviour

Language Course Assessments

If you’re interested in obtaining a certificate of competence upon completion of your language course, you will need to do the formative and summative assessments included in our language courses. The pass rate for these assessments is 50%, with the exception of 60% for HPCSA members.

Formative assessments:

The formative assessments do not count towards your grade, they are merely there to help with your learning process and to monitor your progress. The formative assessments can be found at the end of each module in the learner manual.

Formative assessments in practice:


Delegates will do the formative assessments at home after each class. Upon return to the next class, the memo with the answers will be made available for delegates to grade their assessments.

Distance learning:

Delegates will do the formative assessments at their own pace from home. The memos with the answers will be sent to delegates so that they can grade their assessments.

Summative assessments:

The summative assessments count towards your grade and are there to measure your competence. There are two different types of summative assessments: a written and an oral assessment, each counting 50%.

Written summative assessments in practice:

The written summative assessments are done after each module. There are about 8 of them each consisting of 10 questions.


Delegates will do the written summative assessments in class. It is closed book and invigilated by the course facilitator. These assessments are graded by an assessor and moderated both internally and externally.

Distance learning:

Delegates will do the written summative assessments verbally via a video-calling session with a language facilitator. As your course fee only includes 3 contact sessions of 30 minutes each, you will need to do 3 verbal summative assessments at a time. You are however at liberty to decide when you would like to schedule these assessments.

Oral summative assessments in practice:

The oral summative assessment is done right at the end of the course. Delegates are asked to prepare a +- 3-minute-long conversational speech (on their topic of choice) which includes open and closed ended questions for the course facilitator.


Delegates will do the oral summative assessments in private with the course facilitator.

Distance Learning:

Delegates will do the oral summative assessment during a final video-calling session with a language facilitator.