Task Force to Study African Language Requirement

South Africa has 11 official languages. Only Afrikaans (a descendant of Dutch) and English were official until 1994, when nine other Bantu languages were added. Today, English is the primary language of government, and both English and Afrikaans are used prominently in commerce.

Despite such usage, in terms of speaker population in South Africa, Zulu has 10 million and Xhosa has 7.8 million, greatly outnumbering Afrikaans at 4.7 million speakers and English at 3.6 million. Additionally, Northern and Souther Sotho have 4.1 and 4.2 million speakers, respectively. The other five languages have about 8 million speakers.

Therefore people speaking Afrikaans or English are unable to communicate with vast numbers of their fellow South Africans, a fact that has caught the attention of Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande. He has proposed that all university students be required to learn at least one African language as a condition for graduation.

According to “PanSALB seconds call to revive African languages” on the BuaNews site, the Pan South African Language Board welcomes this announcement. The article cites acting CEO Chris Swepu of PanSALB as saying, “…most university graduates who work in government can’t speak to the public because they don’t know an African language.”

As demonstrated by the article “Students differ over African languages plan” on the Sowetan website, Nzimande’s call is controversial.

According to “Students could need an African language to graduate – Nzimande” on the City Press site, an advisory panel has been asked to look into the issue.

While this announcement does not directly relate to any endangered language, the potential decision to add this sort of language to graduation requirements has application to many endangered language situations.

The PanSALB strives for equal status among the official languages as well as Kxoe (xuu), Khoekhoe (naq), San (unclear) and South African Sign Language (sfs).

2 Responses to “Task Force to Study African Language Requirement”

  1. wakablogger Says:

    Fred Khumalo discusses this issue in “Let’s praat, talk, khuluma:
    Mutual respect and trust begin with learning to speak one another’s languages” on the Times Live site.

  2. A call to value all languages of South Africa « Living Languages Says:

    […] also “Task Force to Study African Language Requirement” on this […]

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