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Seminar puts language issues under spotlight
2012-06-29

The South African Languages Bill does not meet the Constitution’s requirements and is not doing much to curb English monolingualism.

This viewpoint of a number of critics was discussed at a language seminar at the University of the Free State (UFS) this week.

The Faculty of the Humanities at the UFS presented the seminar on the Bloemfontein Campus, where interested parties could discuss issues and developments relating to the South African Languages Bill.

The seminar formed part of the combined annual conference of the South African Applied Linguistics Association, the Linguistic Society of Southern Africa and the South African Association for Language Teachers.

At the conference, the rich diversity of language and also the complexity of language in South Africa was recognised.

The latest South African Languages Bill has attracted much interest and varied viewpoints this past year.

One of the most significant - and also the most controversial - suggestion of the present bill is to extend the present bi-language obligation to a four-language obligation, which implies that at least one African language is added to the present formula.

Furthermore, there are other important stipulations regarding the establishment of language units that will have implications for the public service, and specifically, for language practitioners.

Prof. Koos Malan, a Constitutional Law expert from the University of Pretoria, speaking during a discussion session, said: “Language determination in constitutions and language legislation are indications of the official ideology towards dealing with language and cultural diversity in the specific state. The ideology can range from the support of multilingualism – at the one extreme – to the other extreme, where only one language will get preference as the official language.”

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