Tanzanian Sign Language
Native toTanzania
Native speakers
280,000 (2008)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3tza

Around seven Tanzanian sign languages were independently developed among deaf students in separate Tanzanian schools for the deaf, starting in 1963. However, the use of several is forbidden by their respective schools. In 1984, a standardized Tanzanian Sign Language was proposed by the Tanzania Association for the Deaf, using common or similar signs where these exist in schools that allowed research. However, it has not been officially implemented, and there remains little influence between the languages. A dictionary has been produced.[2] Lexically, the variety that developed in the oralist deaf school in Tabora is significantly different from the dictionary and is under investigation.[3]

The common Swahili term in Tanzania for these languages is lugha ya alama (ya Tanzania), meaning '(Tanzanian) sign language'. The term lugha ya bubu meaning 'mute/dumb language' is also used, but it is pejorative and offensive.[1]


  1. ^ a b Tanzanian Sign Language at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
  2. ^ Muzale, MRT (2004). Kamusi ya Lugha ya Alama ya Tanzania (LAT) / Tanzanian Sign Language (TSL) Dictionary. ISBN 9987-691-02-1.
  3. ^ "Documentation and description of the Tabora variety of Tanzanian Sign Language". Projects. Universiteit Leiden. Retrieved 25 October 2019.