Report on language think tanks held from 2 - 5 October 2000
Media, publishers and libraries
1. Problems and language issues presently experienced
1.1 Negative attitudes to language
Speakers of indigenous languages show a lack of interest and pride in their languages. A lack of dedication to improve the status of indigenous languages causes speakers of indigenous languages not to speak their mother tongues at home. Speakers of Afrikaans and English are often arrogant and insensitive towards the languages of others. They expect speakers of other languages to speak Afrikaans and English, but make no attempt to learn other languages or to improve the status of other languages.
Because there is no reading culture in some language groups, publishers are of the opinion that the market is not big enough to justify the production costs (especially books in indigenous languages). This results in a shortage of books or other publications (e.g. information material such as encyclopaedias). The educational teaching aids available to teachers are insufficient.
1.3 Financial limitations
Interpretation, translation and publication in three languages are expensive. There are often only limited funds available that must be used for more urgent matters. Multilingualism is not cost-effective.
English is the lingua franca of the world and globalisation is often used as an excuse to promote monolingualism.
1.5 Lack of knowledge of and interest in multilingualism
Because the government is uncertain about the management of multilingualism, they do nothing about it (do not even pay lip service) and often use it for political point scoring. The media and schools also do not promote and reflect multilingualism. Afrikaans is neglected by the SABC. Multilingualism is regarded as an impractical and cumbersome process.
1.6 Shortage of professionally trained interpreters and translators
Communication gaps between different language groups develop due to a shortage of trained interpreters and translators. The quality of translations is often poor as a result of the low status of the translation profession and because untrained translators are used. The training of professional language practitioners is very important and this must be done by experts. Peoples language skills have to be improved. Language use in the media (especially newsreaders on television) must be improved. The quality of English used in official documentation is very poor. Poor use of language and communication create a poor image of a company or organisation. Terminology should be developed for the marginalised languages to the benefit of translation and education (especially in the fields of mathematics and science).
2. Ideal situation
2.1 Positive language attitudes (as opposed to 1.1)
To serve as rolemodels, politicians must use their mother tongues during provincial and parliamentary debates. Other languages and cultural customs must be learnt without getting too emotional about your own mother tongue. Equal language status will stimulate pride in the use of the mother tongue and will counteract the preference for American customs and practices currently portrayed on television. Language change and non-standard language use (such as code switching) must be accepted as natural phenomena.
2.2 Literacy (as opposed to 1.2) of all inhabitants (1)
Writers must write in their mother tongues. A vibrant market for Afrikaans and Xhosa publications would provide sufficient reading and learning materials in libraries.
2.3 Sufficient funds for multilingualism (as opposed to 1.3)
Breadwinners must be literate enough to be able to compete on an equal financial footing. Multilingual officials will ensure impartial service delivery in hospitals, courts and other public services.
2.4 A database of language-related information that can be consulted to manage language inquiries. (2)
2.5 Support for multilingualism (as opposed to 1.5)
The arts will be promoted in all three languages and cultures. Education by means of radio and television will provide language training to all inhabitants of the province, especially in rural communities that have no access to these media and that are not exposed to training.
2.6 Trained interpreters and translators (as opposed to 1.6)
Trained language practitioners must translate all publications into the three official languages of the Western Cape. Computer programmes must be developed for automatic translations. Standardised terminology lists will facilitate the translation process.
2.7 A language policy at national level that is supported by government in practice (3)
Schools must formulate effective language policies to enable mother tongue education up to university level. The language policy must provide the necessary infrastructure (e.g. translating and interpreting) to implement multilingualism in practice.
3. Creative solutions
3.1 Promotion of multilingualism by the media and technology
Newspapers, regional newspapers and radio services must include Xhosa to promote multilingualism. A language newspaper containing multilingual articles is proposed. Publishers must translate childrens books and literature for adults into three languages. Use technology to communicate with the masses, e.g. the creation of a web site to do translations. Modern technology and the education sector must cooperate. The SABC can provide training in three languages and the Western Cape Education Department should use the media to inform the public about the status of the three official languages of the Western Cape.
3.2 Promotion of multilingualism by the government
President Mbeki must deliver his speeches in Xhosa, not in English. National symbols and monuments must have multilingual names.
3.3 Marketing of, and campaigns to promote multilingualism
Churches, the government and political parties must promote multilingualism. Proclaim a national languages day for all official languages to emphasise the value of multilingualism. Send rolemodels to schools to inspire children. The value of language as a cultural asset must be emphasised during training.
3.4 Give preference to multilingual employees in the workplace and provide trilingual training
Employment policies in the public and private sectors must encourage multilingualism. Training in trilingualism must not only be offered in the workplace, but also at school, from grades 1 to 12. Educators must be multilingual and must be trained in three official languages of the Western Cape. Employees must pass a trilingual language test. Multilingualism must be rewarded by incentives. Establish a professional body for language practitioners.
Sponsorships for funding. Budgetary provision must be made for the promotion of multilingualism. Funds have to be made available for the language teaching and training of employees and teachers. Community projects must generate their own funds and not wait for funds. Direction signs and public notices should be standardised for multi-purpose use in order to save costs.
3.6 Compile a database of language resources to provide researchers with information.
3.7 Tourism brochures and road signs must be trilingual (4)
3.8 Literacy programmes
An adult literacy campaign. Public libraries should establish a reading culture and should have a policy that books must be purchased in all three official languages of the Western Cape.
3.9 Language policies (5)
The Western Cape Language Committee must show the way in language planning. Parents should be well informed to enable them to make informed decisions regarding language policies for schools.
3.10 Theatre productions must be in all three official languages of the Western Cape.
1. A symposium to develop reading material for children will be held in February 2001. The aim of the symposium is to provide childrens literature in all languages that will be part of the childrens heritage. For further information contact the Centre for the Book.
2. The database is a project initiated by the Western Cape Language Committee and the Western Cape Language Service has already started designing it.
3. The government has already formulated a draft language policy and PANSALB can be consulted in this regard.
4. The Western Cape Language Committee is investigating both matters and has already held negotiations with various organisations.
5. See Discussion document Draft Language Policy for the Western Cape August 2000 obtainable from the Western Cape Language Service.
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