Republic of Namibia

  • Total Population

    2.6 million

  • Deaf Population


  • Nation's Official Language


  • Other Languages

    The number of established languages listed in Ethnologue is 28. Some of these are:

    • Afrikaans
    • Fwe
    • Khoekhoe
    • Kuhane
    • Kwangali
    • Lozi
    • Ngandjera
  • Name of Sign Language

    Namibian Sign Language (NSL)

  • Overview Of Deaf Community And Education

    The first school for the deaf was at Engela; the Eluwa Special School was established by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the 1980s. The first teachers were black Namibians trained in South Africa who used the Paget Gorman Sign System (PGSS) with Ovambo grammar. Students used the PGSS signs, but developed their own grammar. The school moved to Ongwediva and expanded considerably as the country’s only school for Deaf and Blind under South African influence. For a few years after the country’s Independence in 1990, Eluwa remained Namibia’s only School for the Deaf. Now eleven schools or units are listed.

  • Sign Language Overview

    The Namibian National Association of the Deaf (NNAD) offers courses in NSL to the interested public. Association for Children with Language, Speech and Hearing Impairments of Namibia (CLaSH) offers a basic introduction to Namibian SL for parents and family members of young deaf children and a basic 3-month introduction for the interested public. The University of Namibia (UNAM) offers Namibian SL as a minor subject to teacher students.

    Several dictionaries of Namibian SL have been created, the first being in 1991, with more efforts later. ClaSH has also produced manuals for families with deaf children. The Centre for Communication and Deaf Studies has also made materials; NAD and CCDS have recently made an online dictionary with about 2000 signs.

    There is reported regional variation per school for the Deaf in the North and in Windhoek. South African SL influenced Namibian SL, especially in the early period of education. There was also some influence from Swedish Sign Language and American Sign Language since some Deaf adults went into exile ending up in Sweden and/or Washington before returning to Namibia as leaders of the Deaf community. It is not clear in how far Namibian Sign Language and these sign languages are mutually comprehensible.

  • Deaf Organizations In Country

    • The Namibian National Association of the Deaf (NNAD)
    • Association for Children with Language, Speech and Hearing Impairments of Namibia (CLaSH)

  • Overview of Interpreting Services

    NNAD offers interpreter training but this is not accredited. There is a small number of voluntary interpreters available but no interpretation in hospitals. No interpreter services are funded by the Government. The daily TV news is usually interpreted plus one weekly talk show called “Talk of the Nation”.

  • Resources

    Ashipala et al. (1994) "The development of a dictionary of Namibian Sign Language", in Erting, Carol. (ed) The Deaf Way: Perspectives from the International Conference on Deaf Culture. Gallaudet University Press.  

    CLaSH. 2004. Namibian Signs: Sign Language Instruction Video for Families of Hearing Impaired Children. Video. CLaSH: Windhoek, Namibia. 278 | Sign Language Studies  

    Morgan, Ruth; Liddell, Scott; Haikali, Marius M.N.; Ashipala, Sackeus P.; Daniel, Polo; Haiduwah, Hilifilua E.T.; Hashiyana, Rauna Ndeshihafela; Israel, Nangolo Jeremia; Linus, Festus Tshikuku; Niilenge, Henock Hango; and Setzer, Paul, "Namibian Sign Language to English and Oshiwambo" (1991). Namibian Sign Language to English and Oshiwambo. 1. .   Open Educational Resources (Books) at Digital Commons@WOU

    World Federation of the Deaf and Swedish National Association of the Deaf. (2008) Global Survey Report. WFD Regional Secretariat for Southern and Eastern Africa (WFD RSESA)  

  • List of Contributors

    Heidi Beinhouwer, Michiko Kaneko

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