United Republic of Tanzania

  • Total Population

    58 million

  • Deaf Population


  • Nation's Official Language

    Swahili (national), English 

  • Other Languages

    The number of established languages listed in Ethnologue is 128.  Some of these are:

    • Arabic
    • Asu
    • Bena
    • Bende
    • Bondei
    • Chingoni
    • Digo
    • Gogo
    • Ha
    • Haya
    • Hehe
    • Kagulu
    • Kamba
    • Kara
    • Kinga
    • Kwaya
    • Kwere
    • Luguru
    • Luo
    • Maasai
    • Machame
    • Makhuwa-Meetto
    • Malila
    • Matengo
    • Ndali
    • Ndamba
    • Ndendeule
    • Ndengereko
    • Ngulu
    • Nyamwanga
    • Nyamwzi
    • Nyaturu
    • Nyiha
    • Suba-Simbiti
    • Zaramo
  • Name of Sign Language

    Tanzanian Sign Language (TSL) or in Swahili  Lugha ya Alama Tanzania (LAT)

  • Overview Of Deaf Community And Education

    The first school for the deaf, the Tabora Deaf-Mute Institute, was founded in Tabora in 1963 by a Roman-Catholic mission. There are eight Special Schools for the Deaf and about 28 integrated primary and secondary schools (Special Units for the Deaf Students have been established to cater for Deaf or Sign Language Users). Oral and Sign Language (Total Communication) is used. It is estimated that less than 1% of deaf children attend school however (Tanzania International Deaf Academy). Some of the schools and units use some form of signing.

  • Sign Language Overview

    It is reported that TSL is related to several other sign languages: American Sign Language, Danish Sign Language, Finnish Sign Language, German Sign Language and Swedish Sign Language. The evidence for this claim is not made explicit.

    The first dictionary was made in book form in 1993 by CHAVITA. They then made a dictionary of TSL in 2012 which is an online resource with video clips of individual signs. The glosses are provided in Swahili alphabetically but there is an English translation on the site. Previously a dictionary in book form had been made by Muzale (2004). It is estimated that there were seven variants used in the schools for the deaf and that the dictionaries have had a standardizing effect. Nothing is known about variation in TSL. The ‘local sign languages’ have not been further described. It is estimated that TSL is not comprehensible to users of any other sign language. There has been barely any research on TSL and the few articles that exist are in Swahili. There is no description of the grammar of TSL.

    The language is assessed to be vigorous according to the Bickford et al. (2014) categories in that it is not losing users.

  • Deaf Organizations In Country

    • Tanzania Association of the Deaf (CHAVITA) founded in 1993

  • Overview of Interpreting Services

    There are apparently six qualified interpreters but many other volunteer interpreters are available. The Association of Interpreters is part of CHAVITA. Very occasionally there is interpretation of parliamentary sessions.

  • Resources

    Chama cha Viziwi Tanzania [Tanzanian Association of the Deaf]. (1993). Kamusi ya lugha ya alama Tanzania/The Tanzania Sign Language Dictionary: Kiswahili/ Kiingereza—lugha ya alama/Swahili/English—Sign Language. Dar es Salaam: Advert International.  

    Muzale, HRT ed. (2004). Kamusi ya alama Tanzania (The Tanzanian sign language dictionary). Second edition. Dar es Salaam: Chama cha Viziwi Tanzania (Tanzanian Association of the Deaf) and Languages of Tanzania (LOT project - University of Dar es Salaam).  



  • List of Contributors

    Eugen M. Philip, Tumaini S. Naajilo, Anne Baker

Africa Map - Tanzania
Name Sign of Tanzania
Name Sign of Tanzania