[lg policy] South Africa:

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Fri Sep 12 20:10:09 UTC 2014

Mbulungeni Madiba calls for the Intellectualisation of African Languages at
the Launch of *Interviews with Neville Alexander*
by Adele on Sep 11th, 2014

[image: Mbulungeni Madiba, Karen Press and Lungisile Ntsebeza]

[image: Interviews with Neville Alexander]
<http://bookslive.co.za/bookfinder/ean/9781869142773>Mbulungeni Madiba,
co-ordinator of the Multilingualism Education Project
<http://www.ched.uct.ac.za/project/mep/> (MEP) and chairperson of the Pan
South African Language Board <http://www.pansalb.org.za/>, spoke recently
at the launch
of *Interviews with Neville Alexander: The Power of Languages Against the
Language of Power <http://bookslive.co.za/bookfinder/ean/9781869142773>*
about the intellectualisation of indigenous African languages.

Alexander, a revolutionary and struggle hero, passed away in 2012
<http://bookslive.co.za/blog/2012/08/27/neville-alexander-rip/>, at the age
of 75, after a long battle with cancer, but his memory was very much alive
at the launch of the book.

Read Liesl Jobson’s tweets from the event, and Madiba’s thoughts after the

*eville Alexander’s Perspectives and Paradigms on Language and Education by
Mbulungeni Madiba*

Dr Neville Alexander was one of South Africa’s leading and independent
scholars with a critical voice. He was someone with a razor-sharp mind that
was able to analyse and clarify issues in an extraordinary way. He always
wanted people to engage and debate his perspectives and paradigms. On the
back cover of one of his latest books, he has the following to say:

“My sincere wish is that readers will consider these thoughts, take a step
back and try to get a perspective on what has actually been happening since
1990, when the new South Africa began. Even more optimistically, I hope
that such a rethink will inspire the reader to want to find a point of
engagement …”

Alexander’ scholarly work is multifaceted and one cannot do justice to try
to give a full reflection of all his contributions in just 30 minutes. I
will therefore only focus on his contribution to multilingualism and
African languages, and more specifically his perspectives and paradigms on
these two issues.

Alexander was highly committed and passionate about multilingualism and the
development of African languages. His recently published book was an effort
to recap on some of the core issues and concerns that he dealt with in his
life as a political activist and a scholar. It is important to note that
the issue of multilingualism, African languages and the national question
runs through the book like a golden thread. Alexander’s book raises some
serious questions and concerns about our state of education which he
describes as a ‘crisis’ and about the role that language planning can play
in this regard:

*Some critical questions*

1. How can we, through language planning and other interventions, initiate
or reinforce changes in the patterns of development and in the dominant
social relations?

2. What factors determine, or at least influence, changes in individuals’
attitudes and behaviour?

3. How do we assist in the decolonisation of the mind of the billions of
people who are held in thrall by the demonstrable “superiority” of the
global languages as propagated and prioritised by their own ruling groups
and strata?

4. How can we make the move from the existing situation where the former
colonial languages dominate to one where the indigenous languages of Africa
become dominant?

Although all these questions are relevant for our engagement with the book,
I will only focus on the last question. This question is very pertinent as
not much progress has been made on the implementation of language policy
for schools and higher education in the last 20 years. As Alexander rightly
pointed out, while we have developed good language in education policies,
there are no implementation plans to give effect to these policies.

In fact, the existing language-in-education policies, language curricula
and language practices in schools and universities show government’s
ambivalence towards the use of indigenous African languages in education.
While the policy promotes additive bilingualism/multilingualism, that is
the maintenance of home language and the learning of at least one
additional language, it is not being implemented as many schools have no
language policies, and those schools or institutions that have developed
language policies, they have no implementation plans.

Alexander’s recent book emphasises his firm belief in additive
mother-tongue based bilingual education and the role of translation in the
intellectualisation of indigenous African languages.

*Book details*

   - *Interviews with Neville Alexander: The Power of Languages Against the
   Language of Power* by Brigitta Busch, Lucijan Busch and Karen Press
   *! <http://bookslive.co.za/bookfinder/ean/9781869142773>*


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