South Dakota

Legal Status of official English in South Dakota

English Language Law in South Dakota

§1-27-20. English as common language – Use in public records and public meetings.
The common language of the state is English. The common language is designated as the language of any official public document or record and any official public meeting.

§1-27-21. Public document or record defined – Public meetings.
For purposes of §§1-27-20 to 1-27-26, inclusive, an official public document or record is any document officially compiled, published, or recorded by the state including deeds, publicly probated wills, records of births, deaths, and marriages, and any other document or record required to be kept open for public inspection pursuant to chapter 1-27. An official public meeting is any meeting or proceeding required to be open to the public pursuant to chapter 1-25.

§1-27-22. Exceptions
The provisions of §§1-27-20 to 1-27-26, inclusive, do not apply:

  • (1) To instruction in foreign language courses;
  • (2) To instruction designed to aid students with limited English proficiency in a timely transition and integration into the general education system;
  • (3) To the conduct of international commerce, tourism, and sporting events;
  • (4) When deemed to interfere with needs of the justice system;
  • (5) When the public safety, health, or emergency services require the use of other languages. However, any such authorization for the use of a language other than the common language other than printing informational materials or publications for general distribution must be approved in an open public meeting pursuant to chapter 1-25 by the governing board or authority of the relevant state or municipal entity and the decision shall be recorded in publicly available minutes;
  • (6) When expert testimony, witnesses, or speakers require a language other than the common language. However, for purpose of deliberation, decision making or record keeping, the official version of such testimony or commentary shall be the officially translated English language version.

§1-27-23. Costs of publication in other languages as separate budget line item.
Pursuant to the exemptions outlined in §1-27-22, all costs related to the preparation, translation, printing, and recording of documents, records, brochures, pamphlets, flyers, or other informational materials in languages other than the common language shall be delineated as a separate budget line item in the agency, departmental, or office budget.
§1-27-24. Effect of common language requirement on state employment.
No person may be denied employment with the state or any political subdivision of the state based solely upon that person’s lack of facility in a foreign language, except where related to bona fide job needs reflected in the exemptions in §1-27-22.

§1-27-25. Common language requirements not applicable to private activities.
Sections 1-27-20 to 1-27-26, inclusive, may not be construed in any way to infringe upon the rights of citizens under the state constitution or the Constitution of the United States in the use of language in any private activity. No agency or officer of the state nor any political subdivision of the state may place any restrictions or requirements regarding language usage in any business operating in the private sector other than official documents, forms, submissions, or other communications directed to government agencies and officers, which communications shall be in the common language as recognized in §§1-27-20 to 1-27-26. inclusive.

§1-27-26. Enforcement of common language requirements.
Any citizen of the state has standing to bring an action against the state to enforce §§1-27-20 to 1-27-26, inclusive. The circuit court has jurisdiction to hear and decide any such action brought pursuant to §§1-27-20 to 1-27-26, inclusive.



658,245 English
45,575 All languages other than English combined
13,422 German
11,246 Other Native North American languages
10,052 Spanish or Spanish Creole
1,256 French (incl. Patois, Cajun)
1,042 African languages
1,024 Scandinavian languages
573 Serbo-Croatian
569 Chinese
553 Vietnamese
457 Tagalog
411 Russian
384 Arabic
314 Korean
298 Japanese
296 Italian
231 Laotian
203 Thai
185 Polish
134 Greek
112 Hindi
100 Portuguese or Portuguese Creole
89 Persian
62 Mon-Khmer, Cambodian
56 Navajo
53 Urdu
53 Gujarathi
31 Hungarian
21 French Creole
6 Armenian
5 Miao, Hmong
2 Yiddish
0 Hebrew