How Many Countries Have Sign Language As An Official Language?

It is actually estimated that 1% of the population is born deaf, and most likely, learns to speak and learn a signed language. However, with the more than 200 versions of sign language world wide, there is no universal sign language. It is thought that there are around 72 million deaf people in the world.

One of the most common misconceptions about sign language is that it is simply a gestured version of the language that is spoken in a specific area, but this is not the case. Sign languages even have their own grammatical structures. In some countries, activists are trying to improve life for those that are deaf and hard of hearing by recognizing an official sign language.

If you are interested in learning about how many countries actually have sign language as an official language, then you have come to the right place. This is something that we are going to explore in this article, so you can find out more about this subject.

How Many Countries Have Sign Language As An Official Language?

Currently, out of the 195 countries that are in the world, only 41 of them recognize sign language as an official language. Of the 41 countries that do, 26 of them are in Europe. The European Parliament approved the resolution requiring all member states to adopt sign language in an official capacity on the 17th of June, 1988. Another declaration with similar resolutions was issued in 1998. 

When it comes to the remaining countries on the list, 6 of them are in South America, 4 of them are in Africa, 2 of them are in Oceania, and 2 of them are in Asia. Mexico is the only North American state to recognize sign language as an official language. 

Countries With Partial Recognition

There are also several other countries that recognize sign language, but not officially. The Canadian provinces of Ontario, Alberta, and Manitoba recognize American Sign Language as a minority language. However, section 14 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms does grant deaf people the right to an interpreter.

Australia also recognizes Australian Sign Language as a community language, but it does not ensure the provision of services in sign language. Thailand recognizes the Thai Sign Language as the national language of deaf people in Thailand, and it is recognized as the first language of deaf people in schools.

Interestingly, the United States does not identify any signed or spoken language as the official language, but some states do recognize American Sign Language as a foreign language, while others recognize it as a language of instruction in academic institutions. Some universities in America accept American Sign Language as a foreign language.

Sign Language Around the World

According to the World Federation of the Deaf, Uganda was the first country in the world to legally recognize its sign language, and this took place in 1995. Since then, only a small number of the 195 countries in the world have recognized an official sign language.


In India, many people are pushing for Indian Sign Language to become the 23rd official language of India. According to the Indian Sign Language Research and Training Centre, Indian Sign Language is used in the deaf community in India, but it is not used in deaf schools to teach deaf children. Efforts are still being made to make Indian Sign Language recognized in India.

United Arab Emirates

Services and opportunities for deaf people were extremely limited until 10 years ago as this is when the Emirates Deaf Association and the Kalimati Speech and Communication Center opened to close the gaps between hearing and deaf people.

An employment guide for people of determination was launched in September of 2020 by the Ministry of Community Development, and this is the first of its kind in the United Arab Emirates. Their goal is to try and remove some of the barriers for people with hearing loss.


Things are starting to change for the better for the deaf community in Bulgaria, and the government is looking at legislation by Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and other organizations in Bulgaria.

Why is Recognizing Sign Language As An Official Language So Important?

The majority of countries will recognize a language that is most widely known by people within the country. Recognizing sign language as an official language within any country would help to create better access to the language. Children would have the opportunity to learn it in schools, and more resources would become available for those that rely on sign language to communicate.

However, due to the status of sign language worldwide, there is a fear that the language will eventually die out. This is something that we must try to prevent to allow for better opportunities for the deaf community. Lots of people that are either deaf or hard of hearing will rely on sign language in order to take part in the community.

If the language is recognized, then there will be more access to it. It would help to create more employment opportunities and raise more awareness in the public. One of the ways in which you can contribute towards better access for deaf and hard of hearing people worldwide is by signing the Charter on Sign Language Rights for All by the World Federation of the Deaf. It will require everyone to work together to create positive change for the deaf community worldwide.

Which Countries Recognise Sign Language As An Official Language?

  1. Austria
  2. Belgium
  3. Bosnia and Herzegovina
  4. Brazil
  5. Chile
  6. Colombia
  7. Cyprus
  8. Czech Republic
  9. Denmark
  10. Ecuador
  11. Estonia
  12. Finland
  13. Germany
  14. Hungary
  15. Iceland
  16. Japan
  17. Kenya
  18. Latvia
  19. Lithuania
  20. Macedonia
  21. Malta
  22. Mexico
  23. New Zealand
  24. Norway
  25. Papua New Guinea
  26. Poland
  27. Portugal
  28. Romania
  29. Russia
  30. Serbia
  31. Slovakia
  32. Slovenia
  33. South Africa
  34. South Korea
  35. 35 Spain
  36. Sweden
  37. Turkey
  38. 38 Uganda
  39. Uruguay
  40. Venezuela
  41. Zimbabwe