Islamic Republic of Mauritania

  • Total Population

    4.4 million

  • Deaf Population


  • Nation's Official Language

    French, Standard Arabic

  • Other Languages

    The number of established languages listed in Ethnologue is 7. Some of these are:

    • Bambara
    • Hassaniyya
    • Pulaar
    • Tamashek
    • Wolof
  • Name of Sign Language

    Local varieties of American Sign Language and Arabic Sign Language 

  • Overview Of Deaf Community And Education

    The first school for deaf children was established around 2000. A considerable number of schools have been established by the NGO Silent Work, including in Nouakchott, Kaedi, Nouadibou, Agoinitt. Silent Work also established two Deaf units in Luxeba and Juwel. These schools use a method called ‘langue colorée’ which includes the use of signing. At least one of the teachers stayed in Bamako in Mali for some weeks to receive training there at the EDA school. In collaboration with Silent Work, a sign language teacher and interpreter from Togo spent four months in Mauritania. There is also a very competent trainer in Arabic Sign Language. All the teachers at the deaf schools of Silent Work have been trained in a sign language.

  • Sign Language Overview

    The sign language situation is dynamic and evolving. As mentioned above, at least two sign languages are used in the country; a local variety of American Sign Language (ASL) and a local variety of Arabic or Egyptian Sign Language. Local signs, which are well understood by Deaf Mauritanians, are smoothly integrated in both American and Arabic Sign Language. Deaf Mauritanians who identify themselves as Arab tend to use a mixture of Arabic Sign Language and the local variety of American Sign Language. Others may predominantly use the local variety of American Sign Language. There has been almost no research on the varieties used. Adone (2004) claims that there was a Mauritian Sign Language emerging from home signing. 

    In collaboration with DeafNet (South Africa), Silent Work published dictionaries of American Sign Language and Arab Sign Language, as part of the Langue Colorée method developed with DeafNet. There are American Sign Language courses for teachers and parents, as well as for professionals (hospital staff, police, and etcetera). All ASL courses are organized (and funded) by the NGO Silent Work. In addition, occasionally courses are offered in Arabic Sign Language.

  • Deaf Organizations In Country

    • Association for Parents of Deaf Children founded in 2005
    • National Association for Deaf People

  • Overview of Interpreting Services

    There is one qualified interpreter for Arabic Sign Language, in addition to a small number of volunteer interpreters for American Sign Language and Arabic Sign Language. Once a week, the news on TV is being interpreted into American Sign Language and Arab Sign Language.

  • Resources

    Adone, Dany. 2004. From Home Sign to Sign Language: The Case of Mauritian Sign Language. Poster session at Theoretical Issues in Sign Language Research 9  

    WFD (2008). Global Survey Report. WFD Regional Secretariat for Western and Central Africa Region (WFD WCAR). Global Education Pre-Planning Project on the Human Rights of Deaf People. World Federation of the Deaf. Finland.  

    DVD dictionary with 1000 entries for the local American Sign Language variety, presenting signs recorded with teachers of the deaf schools. There is also a paper dictionary with 1000 entries.

  • List of Contributors

    Wiljo Woodi Oostrom, Victoria Nyst

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