LANGUAGE POLICY AND PLAN FOR SOUTH AFRICA
The Advisory Panel
to the Minister of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology
LIST OF ACRONYMS
4 LANGUAGE POLICY
4.1 Language policy on internal oral communication for all government structures
5 IMPLEMENTATION PLAN
5.1 Language units
ADVISORY PANEL ON LANGUAGE POLICY TO THE MINISTER OF ARTS, CULTURE, SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
Dr Neville Alexander
AISA Africa Institute of South Africa
This language policy is intended as an enabling framework for promoting South Africas linguistic diversity and encouraging respect for language rights within the policy framework of building and consolidating a united democratic South African nation.
The purpose of this policy document is to set out a coherent language policy and implementation plan for a multilingual dispensation within the parameters of the Constitution and in concert with broad social planning and transformation in South Africa. In line with its mandate, the Department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology (DACST) will oversee the implementation of the policy and the plan.
In view of the fact that government is committed to the constitutional provisions on language and to maximising South Africas human resources, it is imperative that the language policy be implemented as a matter of urgency. This will reinforce other government strategies to consolidate national unity and democracy in South Africa. Where anomalies exist between this language policy and other policies in the public and private sector, this policy should take precedence.
Although government has many roles to play in the implementation of the language policy, this document looks mainly at governments core functions such as formulating a regulatory policy framework, and managing and allocating resources at national and provincial level.
The language policy is based on section 6 of the Constitution (Act No. 108 of 1996) and the following other relevant provisions pertaining to:
Section 6 of the Constitution provides the primary legal and constitutional framework for multilingualism, the use of the official languages and the promotion of respect and tolerance for South Africas linguistic diversity. Amongst other things, it establishes the following norms:
The Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) also charges government with the responsibility of establishing and implementing a language policy that encourages and supports, financially and otherwise, the utilisation of all languages of South Africa (paragraph 184.108.40.206).
DACSTs vision for promoting multilingualism is outlined in its corporate goal of supporting the linguistic diversity of our country as a resource in empowering all South Africans fully to participate in their countrys social, political and economic life.
2.2 Strategic goals
The language policy sets out to achieve the following strategic goals:
In accordance with the Constitution, the basis for a comprehensive language policy consists of the following principles:
(a) Promoting and protecting linguistic and cultural diversity.
(c) Asserting the view that multilingualism is a resource.
(d) Redressing the marginalisation of indigenous languages.
(e) Encouraging the learning of other South African languages.
The basic requirements for a language policy for South Africa have to be
These requirements are:
(a) Supporting the development of human resources with a view to implementing the policy of multilingualism.
(b) Professionalisation of the activities of language practitioners through legislation.
(c) Development of an efficient language industry by, among other things, using and developing appropriate technology.
(d) Special redress for the marginalised languages, that is, the African languages including the Khoe and San Languages, as well as Sign Language/s.
(e) Supporting the provision for the learning and teaching of South African languages.
(f) Encouraging the private sector to promote, support and implement a policy of multilingualism.
(g) Providing adequate financial support for the implementation of the language policy.
For purposes of this policy document, language policy refers to, and is being proposed for, the following sectors:
The Advisory Panel recommends that DACST decides between the following options:
The Advisory Panel is aware that unlike languages within the Nguni and the Sotho groups respectively, which are mutually intelligible to a high degree, Tshivenda and Xitsonga are not mutually intelligible. The reason for coupling these two is essentially a practical one related to resource constraints in the short-term. In the longer term, it is essential that these languages be uncoupled. The Advisory Panel thus recommends that within the next five to ten years, affirmative action measures be adopted with regard to these two languages.
The Advisory Panel is aware that currently there is an expectation that all government documentation should always be in English and occasionally also in other South African languages. If this expectation were to be endorsed by this policy document, it would be in conflict with both the spirit and the letter of the Constitution. It is for this reason that the Advisory Panel has coupled Afrikaans with English, as has been done with all the other languages. Given the school language policy under the previous regime, it is a reasonable assumption that first language speakers of these languages are bilingual in English and Afrikaans.
The following model of Option 1 provides some idea of how it could work in practice, using DACST as an example.
4.1 Language policy on internal oral communication for all government structures
By consensus, all government structures must agree on their working languages for internal oral communication, intra- and inter-departmentally, unless other rules apply, and subject to the proviso that no person shall be prevented from using the language of his or her preference, at any given time.
4.2 Language policy on internal written communication for all government structures
By consensus, all government structures must agree on their working languages for internal written communication, intra- and inter-departmentally, unless other rules apply, provided that every effort be made to comply with the language code of conduct.
4.3 Language policy on external oral communication for all government structures
All official government communication with the public must take place in the language/s of the target audience, with the assistance of interpreters and other technical means such as simulcast and sub-titling, wherever necessary.
4.4 Language policy on external written communication for all government structures
In the case of written communication between government departments and citizens, the language of the citizens choice will be used.
If government initiates the communication, the language of the target audience will, as a rule, determine the languages to be used.
Subject to periodic language audits, government publications shall be issued in the language/s of the target audience.
International communication on the part of government will normally be in English or in the preferred language of the relevant country.
4.5 National and provincial legislatures
By the year 2005, any of the eleven official languages will be used in all legislative activities, including Hansard publications, as a matter of right, provided that in the case of provincial legislatures, regional circumstances will determine the language/s to be used.
4.6 Local government
Local governments must determine the language use and preference of their communities within an enabling provincial language policy framework. Upon the determination of the language use and preference of the communities, local governments must, in broad consultation with their communities, develop, publicise and implement a language policy.
4.7 Administration of Justice
4.7.1 Language of courts
Accused persons must be tried in the language of their choice. Wherever this is not practicable, the proceedings must be interpreted into that language.
Judicial officers have the discretion to decide upon the language to be used during court proceedings, subject to the provisions of the previous paragraph.
4.7.2 Language of record
The language of record shall be the language of the proceedings of the court and translation shall be provided for wherever necessary.
By the year 2010 any accused person in criminal proceedings, applicant or respondent in civil proceedings, as well as any witness in any court, shall have access to a professional interpreter accredited by the Regulatory Body for the Accreditation of Translators and Interpreters, if required. The same will apply mutatis mutandis to the operations of the Department of Safety and Security.
4.8 Language/s of Learning and Teaching
Since language, as a fundamental instrument of learning and teaching, is at the heart of all education, the Department of Education shall finalise and implement an appropriate and generally accepted policy on language/s of learning and teaching by the year 2005.
Consonant with the Broadcasting Act, 1999 (Act No. 4 of 1999), all official South African languages must be provided for by the public broadcaster. In regard to television, an increasing amount of broadcasting airtime shall be progressively provided for the African languages and Sign Language/s, up to a point where all official South African languages are accorded an equitable proportion of airtime.
The public service provided by the corporation must strive to be of high quality in all of the languages used.
4.10 Public Service
The provisions of paragraphs 4.1 to 4.4 will apply mutatis mutandis.
4.10.1 Language Code of Conduct for Public Servants
A language code of conduct shall be formulated and implemented in order to render effective services to the public. DACST, together with the DPSA, in consultation with other government departments, shall be assigned the task to develop this language code of conduct by the year 2001. This code shall also provide for disciplinary measures in cases of transgression.
4.10.2 Language units in government departments
A language unit shall be established in each government department at national and provincial level by the DPSA, in collaboration with relevant structures, by the year 2005. The function of these units will be to deal with specific language issues of a particular department arising from this language policy, and to liaise on language matters with other departments.
4.11 Bodies supported by government
All of the above from 4.1 to 4.10 applies mutatis mutandis to bodies supported by government.
4.12 Private Sector
Government shall encourage and support private enterprises to develop and implement their own language policies in consonance with the framework of this language policy.
5.1 Language units
5.2 Language Code of Conduct
5.3 Language audits
5.4 Language awareness campaigns
5.5 Regulatory Body for the Accreditation of Translators and Interpreters
5.6 Telephone Interpreting Service for South Africa (TISSA)
5.7 Development of African languages
5.9 Languages of learning and teaching
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