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17 MAY 2013

PanSALB welcomes the African languages school plan

17 MAY 2013

The Pan South African Language Board (PanSALB) welcomes the move by the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) to introduce isiZulu language as a compulsory course to allow students to demonstrate bilingualism to earn their degrees.

This is definitely a watershed moment in the history of our education system. It offers us an opportunity to reclaim the value of linguistic pluralism in South Africa, and in so doing to rediscover a hidden store of knowledge.

As such, language is a critical factor influencing education outcomes and is a determinant of scholastic and career performance. Language forms the basis for conceptualisation and understanding. In its absence important skills and knowledge, including numeracy, cannot be transferred. This in turn impacts on the availability of a variety of much-needed skills in South Africa, thus perpertuating on unemployment in the long term.

Language should enhance equality and equitability. It should unite South Africans and not create distances. All speakers of official languages should be granted the same opportunity to use and develop their language. South Africa has a unique heritage of multilingualism which should be nurtured and developed. This will lead to social cohesion. 

If it was possible, “by whatever means necessary” to successfully develop Afrikaans from a kombuis taal into a language capable of carrying all knowledge, including nuclear science and heart transplantation, so it is possible to do the same for the African languages.

“We cannot continue to create a situation in which African children are made to leave their African languages at the gates of learning,” said Mr Mxolisi Zwane, Acting Chief Executive Officer of PanSALB. 

The ideals enshrined in our constitution on language have to be socially engaged. This is necessary as there is an intrinsic and primordial connection between language, culture and identity.

Policies will need to be put in place that will take us beyond UKZN to the foundation phase of our education system where it will equip our learners from childhood development of our education.  In this regard, language as a national heritage will be preserved and maintained.

At the end of the day, the language communities need to become empowered and need to recognise the social, educational and economic potential of their languages if multilingualism is to take root as a positive force in this country.

Ultimately, PanSALB wants to stimulate the empowerment of language communities to recognise both the sentimental and instrumental value of their languages. Multilingualism will take root as a positive force in this country when all our languages are valued in society at large.