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Kenyan Sign Language

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Title: Kenyan Sign Language  
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Subject: Somali Sign Language, Languages of Kenya, Sign language, Ugandan Sign Language, Deaf-community sign language
Collection: Kenyan Sign Language Family, Languages of Kenya, Sign Languages
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Kenyan Sign Language

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 1
  • Status and recognition 2
  • Kenya Sign Language Interpreters Association 3
  • Dictionaries and Education 4
  • Sign language organizations 5
  • Sign Bilingual Schools 6
  • Notes 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9

Language situation

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

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

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

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])

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

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

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
  2. ^ Kenyan Sign Language (KSL) at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  3. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Kenyan Sign Language". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  4. ^ Gallaudet world FAQ
  5. ^ a b c d e
  6. ^


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

External links

  • 1996 interview with Simeon Ogolla
  • HIV/AIDS education program using Kenyan Sign Language. This site contains lots of useful information as well as photos of the Kenyan Deaf community.
  • [1] Kenyan Sign Language Interpreters Association - KSLIA. Official blogspot with information on Kenyan Interpreters and Interpreter issues.
  • Report from a US volunteer visiting Kenya to work with the Deaf community through an NGO.
  • Demonstration of KSL CD developed by Peace Corps Volunteers working in Kenya.
  • KSL HIV/AIDS SmartQUIZ - Computer based interactive KSL HIV/AIDS quiz, developed by Peace Corps Volunteers working in Kenya
  • Easy to Learn KSL Poster - Easy To Learn Kenyan/Zambian Sign Language poster, developed by Peace Corps Volunteers working in Kenya
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