South Africa: Govt info online from Afrikaans to isiZulu

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Tue May 22 13:39:26 UTC 2007

Compiled by the Government Communication and Information System
Date: 21 May 2007
Title: Govt info online from Afrikaans to isiZulu

By Lavinia Mahlangu

Pretoria - Information on government services is now available in all
11 official languages, from Afrikaans to isiZulu on The new website has information on government
services for citizens, foreigners, individuals and organizations on
issues ranging from registering births and companies, to finding a
place to live and making travel arrangements. So far, the most popular
queries accessed are transport related and include how one goes about
registering for learners' and drivers' licences and registering motor

Boasting a clean design and hundreds of pages of information, the site
allows users to select the language of their choice from a drop-down
menu on the left hand side of the main page, just under the national
coat of arms. South Africa's Constitution recognises 11 official
languages, namely Afrikaans, English, isiNdebele, isiXhosa, isiZulu,
Sesotho sa Leboa, Sesotho, Setswana, siSwati, Tshivenda and Xitsonga.
Recognising the historically diminished use and status of the
indigenous languages, the Constitution expects government to implement
positive measures to elevate the status and advance the use of these

According to the national Census of 2001, isiZulu is the mother tongue
of 23.8 percent of the population, followed by isiXhosa at 17.6
percent. Afrikaans first language speakers make up 13.3 percent of the
population, while Sesotho sa Leboa is spoken by 9.4 percent, and
English and Setswana each represent 8.2 percent of the population.
The least-spoken official language in South Africa is isiNdebele,
which is spoken by 1.6 percent of the population.

Although English is the mother tongue of only 8.2 percent of the
population, it is the language most widely understood, and the second
language of the majority of South Africans. However, government is
committed to promoting all the official languages, through various
organs, some of which are overseen by the Department of Arts and
Culture. The National Language Service (NLS) provides a range of
language services for official documentation, develops and promotes
national language policy, and advises on standardising and
disseminating information on a range of terminology.

The NLS functions as government's professional language support
system, by translating official documents in all the official
languages. Its terminology service assists with the development and
modernisation of the technical vocabularies of the official languages.
The language-planning functions include advising government on the
development of language policy and implementation strategies.

Another organ is the Pan South African Language Board (PanSALB) which
promotes the recognition, implementation and promotion of
multilingualism in South Africa, and the development of previously
marginalised languages. PanSALB's vision is to achieve equal status
and use of all official languages and extends this vision to Khoi,
Nama, San and South African Sign Language. - BuaNews

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