South Africa may cut 7 tongues out

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Wed May 18 12:55:20 UTC 2005

SA may cut 7 tongues out
25/04/2005 09:51  - (SA)

MIllicent Merton

Cape Town - The possibility of four official languages instead of 11 was
raised at a discussion over the weekend on mother-tongue education. Dr
Neville Alexander, director of the Project for the Research of Alternative
Education in South Africa (Praesa), said if the correct approach was used,
people would not feel threatened or think that it was wrong to have only
four official languages.

He said this could happen within the next 10 years. A concept document,
drawn up by a group of language experts, suggested that national
government departments accept a minimum of four official languages. These
languages were Sotho, Afrikaans, English and an Nguni language (Zulu or
Xhosa). Other languages would be phased in systematically to encourage
multi-lingual skills.


Language experts said it was unpractical to have 11 official languages.
The languages spoken by fewer people often lagged behind as a result of
the enormous costs of advancing all languages. Alexander welcomed the
government's decision to appoint people to the public service only if that
person could speak an indigenous language. He said this would help
increase the market value of African languages.

Referring to Mikro Primary School in Kuils River, he said the court case
brought by a public school over language could hamper the multi-lingual
approach in education. The governing body of this Afrikaans-medium school
turned to the court to contest a decision by the Western Cape education
department that the school should enrol English-speaking pupils.

Alexander said he was not sure whether the provincial minister of
education knew it could take years to overturn the decision should the
Appeal Court decide in favour of Mikro. He said smaller languages should
not be marginalised and parallel-medium education should be the norm in
urban areas.

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