Botswana: Use Setswana in official functions, advises UB lecturer

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Wed Jun 28 12:57:47 UTC 2006

Use Setswana in official functions, advises UB lecturer
27 June, 2006

GABORONE - A University of Botswana (UB) lecturer has called for paradigm
shifts and radical changes to the current systems if Setswana is to become
an efficient official language. Discussing varying methods of empowering
Setswana to fulfil the role of a national and official language during the
Setswana conference that ended on Saturday, Prof. Herbert Batibo of the
Department of African Languages and Literature advised that the language
must be functional even at official events. It should be given the mandate
to play all national roles including government business, local
administration, education, science and technology, judiciary, medicine,
mass media and so forth.

If the national language is divorced form official functions it becomes
merely symbolic as opposed to being functional, he said. Batibo noted that
English has since become a powerful international language as it has
entrenched itself into all systems but warned that Setswana should not be
seen as replacing English adding the two should co-exist instead of
competing against each other. He recommended that the National Language
Policy should be revised to make Setswana the national and main official
language and English the second official language.

Batibo also said that an effective national language should be
standardised and codified in standard grammar, dictionary, orthography and
pronunciation and these should be disseminated, known and used by all
citizens whenever necessary. He also said Batswana should feel proud and
loyal to their national language as the symbol of nationhood, national
identity and authenticity. An effective national language ought to be
enriched by the various linguistic, cultural and artistic wealth of the
other languages spoken in her country, he said. This should include
indigenous knowledge from the various groups in the country.

Another measure to empower Setswana would be to tap, enculturate and
encode foreign language into Setswana through documentation and
translation. He advised that a national language should be periodically
evaluated to determine its effectiveness and efficiency in its various
domains of use, the level of its social acceptance and the extent to which
its standard and technicised form has been disseminated, known and used by
the people. As a follow-up to Batibos presentation, the conference
recommended that the status and structure of the National Setswana
Language Council should be revised to make it a vibrant and well-resourced
Botswana languages council.

The objective of the conference was to support and promote capacity
building for Setswana and for researchers, critics and analysts in the
academic and public arena. Its output is expected to inform Botswanas
position in view of the development of Setswana as national and official
language. BOPA

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