[lg policy] South Africa: Call for translators as language policy kicks in

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Thu Nov 10 14:50:01 UTC 2011


Call for translators as language policy kicks inMon, 7 Nov, 2011
 Matthew Smith Miller

The Eastern Cape urgently needs translator and interpreters if it is to
effectively carry out its new language policy, according to which official
communication in the province must be printed in isiXhosa, Afrikaans,
English and Sesotho. Citizens will be able to choose what language they use
to communicate with government officials, regardless of whether that
communication is written or oral.

Officials from the Eastern Cape Department of Sport, Recreation, Arts and
Culture (DSRAC) announced the launch of a new provincial language policy
framework during an event celebrating International Translation Day
(postponed from late September) at the 1820 Settlers' Monument last
Thursday.

The document establishes four official languages for the Eastern Cape:
isiXhosa (spoken by 83.8% of the province), Afrikaans (9.6%), English
(3.7%), and Sesotho (2.2%). MEC Xoliswa Tom described this as a historic
moment, saying, "It affirms our linguistic and cultural diversity as a
province."

The stated motivation behind the launch of the policy is the desire to
fulfil the promise of Section 6 of the Constitution, which establishes the
equality of South Africa's 11 official languages. According to the
Background and Context section of the policy, African languages in South
Africa remain in de facto secondary status below English and Afrikaans, and
this has led to persistent negative stereotypes about these languages.

Several speakers at the event, who ranged from academics to government
officials, stressed that the aim of this policy was not to diminish English
or Afrikaans, but to elevate the status of African languages. In essence,
the new language policy represents on one hand a symbolic embrace of
multilingualism, and on the other a practical commitment to making the
government more accessible to all citizens, regardless of the language they
speak.

The policy requires that official provincial communications be printed in
all four languages, and that in communication between the government and
individuals, whether written or oral, the citizen's choice of language will
be used, facilitated by translators and interpreters.

A major emphasis of the policy, thus, is on capacity building at government
level, and it calls for the creation of language units in all provincial
government departments and the development of language personnel.

Dr Hilda Israel, of Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, told the
assembly that the training of interpreters and translators is an urgent
task, saying that within the next four years South Africa is expected to
lose up to 40% of its language staff to retirement.

Professor Russell Kaschula, head of the School of Languages at Rhodes,
spoke in both English and isiXhosa as he celebrated the policy launch,
saying that it gives Eastern Cape universities greater power to promote
multilingualism on their campuses.

He argued that embracing multilingualism is a step towards giving all
students a sense of belonging, and ensures that graduates can be truly
effective within their fields. As a model to emulate, Kaschula cited how
medical students at the University of Cape Town are required to pass
isiXhosa and Afrikaans before receiving their degrees.

Rhodes currently teaches optional vocation-specific isiXhosa language
courses in the areas of journalism, pharmacy, law, and education.

In a secondary ceremony, the Department of Sport, Recreation, Arts and
Culture also presented the Department of Health with a newly compiled
booklet of health and medical terms listed in each of the four languages,
designed to facilitate communication between doctors and patients.

Suffering from a headache? Of is dit 'n kopseer? Okanye intloko ebuhlungu?
Bohloko ba hlooho?

Manager of Cultural Affairs Lennox V. Xalabile said he hoped the booklet
would be a model for future publications on other topics. Wezile Welcome
Tshali accepted the booklets on behalf of Sicelo Gqobana, MEC of the
Department of Health, which will be responsible for printing and
distributing this glossary to the public.

The department showcased its commitment to multilingualism by providing
summarised translations to many event segments in each of the four
languages. Throughout the day, every speaker was accompanied by a
sign-language interpreter.

The day included entertainment from comic Ntombifuthi Ncwayiba, who had the
crowd roaring with laughter as she poked fun at linguistic variations
within the broader isiXhosa-speaking community, and concluded with a lunch
at the Monument restaurant.

http://www.grocotts.co.za/content/call-translators-language-policy-kicks-07-11-2011
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