Final Draft: LANGUAGE  POLICY  AND PLAN  FOR  SOUTH  AFRICA

By
The Advisory Panel on Language Policy
To
The Minister of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology

6 November 2000

CONTENTS

LIST OF ACRONYMS

  1. INTRODUCTION
    1. Purpose
  2. CONSTITUTIONAL PROVISIONS
    1. Introduction
    2. Strategic goals
    3. Principles
  3. LANGUAGE POLICY REQUIREMENTS
  4. LANGUAGE POLICY
    1. Language policy on internal oral communication for all government structures
    2. Language policy on internal written communication for all government structures
    3. Language policy on external oral communication for all government structures
    4. Language policy on external written communication for all government structures
    5. International communication
    6. National and provincial legislatures
    7. Local government
    8. Administration of Justice
      1. Language of courts
      2. Language of record
      3. Interpreting
    9. Language/s of learning and teaching (LOLT)
    10. Mandated public media
    11. Public Service
      1. Language Code of Conduct for Public Servants
      2. Language units in government departments
    12. Bodies supported by government
    13. Private sector
    14. Language and Technology
  5. IMPLEMENTATION PLAN
    1. Language units
    2. Language Code of Conduct
    3. Language audits
    4. Language awareness campaigns
    5. South African Language Practitioners' Council
    6. Telephone Interpreting Service for South Africa (TISSA)
    7. Development of African languages and Sign Language/s
    8. Language and technology
    9. Languages of learning and teaching
    10. Budgeting

ADVISORY PANEL ON LANGUAGE POLICY
TO THE MINISTER OF ARTS, CULTURE, SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

Dr Neville Alexander
Ms Zubeida Desai, PANSALB
Prof. Nhlanhla Maake
Dr Langa Mathenjwa
Mr Dumisani Ntshangase
Prof. Hennie Strydom

LIST OF ACRONYMS

AISA Africa Institute of South Africa
CBO Community-Based Organisation
CHE Councilfor Higher Education
DACST Departmentof Arts, Culture, Science and Technology
DoE Departmentof Education
DoJ Departmentof Justice
DPSA Departmentof Public Service and Administration
LASU Language Association of Southern African Universities
LiEP Language in Education Policy
LOLT Language/sof Learning and Teaching
NGO Non-Governmental Organisation
NLB National Language Body
NLS National Language Service
NLU National Lexicography Unit
NQF National Qualifications Framework
OAU Organisation of African Unity
PANSALB Pan South African Language Board
PLC Provincial Language Committee
RDP Reconstruction and Development Programme
SADC Southern African Development Community
SAQA South African Qualifications Authority
TISSA Telephone Interpreting Service for South Africa
UNESCO United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation
(The) history of language is not separate from the rest of human history: on the contrary, it is an essential aspect of it. Human history is as much a history of semiotic activity as it is of socio-economic activity.
M.A.K. Halliday and J.R. Martin. 1993. Writing Science: Literacy and Discursive Power. London and Washington, D.C.: The Falmer Press.
  1. INTRODUCTION
  1. Purpose

This language policy is intended as an enabling framework for promoting South Africa's linguistic diversity and encouraging respect for language rights within the policy framework of building and consolidating a united democratic South African nation.

The purpose of this policy document is to set out a coherent language policy and implementation plan for a multilingual dispensation within the parameters of the Constitution and in concert with broad social planning and transformation in South Africa. In line with its mandate, the Department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology (DACST) will oversee the implementation of the policy and the plan.

We can develop a language policy for South Africa only if we take into account the broad acceptance of linguistic diversity, social justice, the principle of equal access to public services and programmes, and respect for language rights. This language policy, however, is making its appearance at a decisive point in the history, when public and private institutions are taking ad hoc language decisions that tend to negate the constitutional provisions and requirements relating to language. This situation is directly linked to the ongoing domination of English and widespread, but short-sighted, bureaucratic attitudes against implementing multilingualism.

In view of the fact that government is committed to the constitutional provisions on language and to maximising South Africa’s human resources, it is imperative that the language policy be implemented as a matter of urgency. This will reinforce other government strategies to consolidate national unity and democracy in South Africa. Where anomalies exist between this language policy and other policies in the public and private sector this policy should take precedence.

Although government has many roles to play in the implementation of the language policy, this document looks mainly at government's core functions such as formulating a regulatory policy framework, and managing and allocating resources at national and provincial level.

  1. CONSTITUTIONAL PROVISIONS
  1. Introduction

The language policy is based on section 6 of the Constitution (Act No. 108 of 1996), and the following other relevant provisions pertaining to: 

Section 6 of the Constitution provides the primary legal and constitutional framework for multilingualism, the use of the official languages and the promotion of respect and tolerance for South Africa's linguistic diversity. Among other things, it establishes the following norms:
 

The Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) also charges government with the responsibility of establishing and implementing “a language policy that encourages and supports, financially and otherwise, the utilisation of all languages of South Africa” (paragraph 3.4.3.7).

DACST’s vision for promoting multilingualism is outlined in its corporate goal of supporting “the linguistic diversity of our country as a resource in empowering all South Africans fully to participate in their country’s social, political and economic life”.

  1. Strategic goals

The language policy sets out to achieve the following strategic goals:

  1. To facilitate individual empowerment and national development by promoting the equitable use of the official languages and thus ensuring that all South Africans have the freedom to exercise their language rights by using the official language/s of their choice in a range of contexts. This applies in particular to equality of access to government services and programmes, and to knowledge and information.
  2. To develop and promote the official African languages and Sign Language/s of South Africa, i.e. Sepedi, Sesotho, Setswana, siSwati, Tshivenda, Xitsonga, Afrikaans, isiNdebele, isiXhosa and isiZulu.
  3. To provide for a regulatory framework for the effective management of the use of the official languages in the Public Service.
  4. To support economic development through the promotion of multilingualism.
  5. To provide for the learning of South African languages by all South African citizens in order to promote national unity, multilingualism and multiculturalism.
  6. Building capacity in the field of language and technology for all South African languages.
  1. Principles

In accordance with the Constitution, the basis for a comprehensive language policy consists of the following principles:

  1. Promoting and protectinglinguistic and cultural diversity.
  2. Supporting democracythrough the entrenchment of language equity and language rights.
  3. Viewing multilingualismas a resource.
  4. Redressing the marginalisationof indigenous languages.
  5. Encouraging the learningof other South African languages.

 

  1. LANGUAGE POLICY REQUIREMENTS

 The basic requirements for a language policy for South Africa have to be -

These requirements are:
  1. Supporting the development of human resources through the official use of all South African languages in terms of the constitutional obligation to promote multilingualism.
  2. Professionalisation of language practitioners through legislation and other means.
  3. Development of an efficient language industry by, among other things, using and developing appropriate technology.
  4. Special redress for the marginalised languages, that is, the African languages including the Khoe and San Languages, as well as Sign Language/s.
  5. Supporting the provision for the learning and teaching of South African languages.
  6. Encouraging the private sector to promote, support and implement a policy of multilingualism through the provision of incentives.
  7. Providing adequate financial support for the implementation of the language policy.
  8. Supporting language technology.

 

  1. LANGUAGE POLICY

For purposes of this policy document, language policy refers to, and is being proposed for, the following sectors:

Rotation of languages:

In order to ensure "parity of esteem and the equitable use of the official languages", the principle of using four categories of languages on a rotational basis must be adopted in relevant government structures, except in instances where –

  1. all eleven official languages have to be used, and
  2. the availability of (a) document(s) in a particular language is essential for the stable and effective operations of government at any level. In such cases, documents should be translated into the relevant language.

These language categories are:

The Advisory Panel is aware that, unlike languages within the Nguni and the Sotho groups, respectively, which are mutually intelligible to a high degree, Tshivenda and Xitsonga are not mutually intelligible. The reason for coupling these two is essentially a practical one related to resource constraints in the short term. In the longer term, it is essential that these languages be uncoupled. The Advisory Panel thus recommends that within the next five to ten years, affirmative action measures be adopted with regard to these two languages.

The Advisory Panel is aware that currently there is an expectation that all government documentation should always be in English and occasionally also in other South African languages. If this expectation were to be endorsed by this policy document, it would be in conflict with both the spirit and the letter of the Constitution. It will also continue to disadvantage and disempower the majority of the people who are non-English speakers.  It is for this reason that the Advisory Panel has coupled Afrikaans with English, as has been done with all the other languages. Given the school language policy under the previous regime, it is a reasonable assumption that first language speakers of these languages are bilingual in English and Afrikaans.

The following model of the rotation of languages provides some idea of how it could work in practice, using DACST as an example.

DACST 2000

  1. Annual Report
    English, isiXhosa, Sesotho and Tshivenda
  2. Information Brochure for South Africans
    Afrikaans, isiZulu, Sepedi and Xitsonga
  3. South African Languages Bill
    English, isiNdebele, Setswana and Tshivenda
  4. South African Languages Act
    All eleven official languages
  5. DACST Newsletter
    Afrikaans, siSwati, Sesotho and Xitsonga
  1. Language policy on internal oral communication for all government structures

By consensus, all government structures must agree on their working languages for internal oral communication, intra and interdepartmentally, unless other rules apply, and subject to the proviso that no person shall be prevented from using the language of his or her preference, at any given time.

  1. Language policy on internal written communication for all government structures

By consensus, all government structures must agree on their working languages for internal written communication, intra and interdepartmentally, unless other rules apply, provided that every effort be made to comply with the language code of conduct.

  1. Language policy on external oral communication for all government structures

All official government communication with the public must take place in the language/s of the target audience, with the assistance of interpreters and technical means such as simulcast and subtitling, wherever necessary.

  1. Language policy on external written communication for all government structures

In the case of written communication between government departments and citizens, the language of the citizens' choice will be used.

If government initiates the communication, the language of the target audience will, as a rule, determine the languages to be used.

Subject to periodic language audits, government publications shall be issued in the language/s of the target audience.

  1. International communication

International communication on the part of government will normally be in English or in the preferred language of the relevant country.

  1. National and provincial legislatures

By the year 2005, any of the eleven official languages as required will be used in all legislative activities, including Hansard publications, as a matter of right, provided that in the case of provincial legislatures, regional circumstances will determine the language/s to be used.

  1. Local government

Local governments must determine the language use and preference of their communities within an enabling provincial language policy framework. Upon the determination of the language use and preference of the communities, local governments must, in broad consultation with their communities, develop, publicise and implement a multilingual language policy.

  1. Administration of Justice
  1. Language of courts

Accused persons must be tried in the language of their choice. Wherever this is not practicable, the proceedings must be interpreted into that language.

Judicial officers have the discretion to decide upon the language to be used during court proceedings, subject to the provisions of the previous paragraph.

  1. Language of record

The language of record shall be the language of the proceedings of the court and translation shall be provided for wherever necessary.

  1. Interpreting

By the year 2010 any accused person in criminal proceedings, applicant or respondent in civil proceedings, as well as any witness in any court, shall have access to a professional interpreter accredited by the South African Language Practitioners' Council. The same will mutatis mutandis apply to the operations of the Department of Safety and Security.

  1. Language/s of Learning and Teaching (LOLT)

Since language, as the fundamental instrument of learning and teaching, is at the heart of all education, learners should be strongly encouraged to use their primary languages as their main LOLT at all levels of schooling. In addition, all learners must have the opportunity to learn additional languages to high levels of proficiency.

  1. Mandated Public Media

Consonant with the Broadcasting Act, 1999 (Act No. 4 of 1999), all official South African languages must be provided for by the public broadcaster. In regard to television, an increasing amount of broadcasting air time shall be progressively provided for the African languages and Sign Language/s, up to a point where all official South African languages are accorded an equitable proportion of atrium.

The public service provided by the corporation must strive to be of high quality in all of the languages used.

  1. Public Service

The provisions of paragraphs 4.1 to 4.4 will mutatis mutandis apply.

  1. Language Code of Conduct for Public Servants

A language code of conduct shall be formulated and implemented in order to render effective services to the public. DACST, together with the DPSA, in consultation with other government departments, shall be assigned the task to develop this language code of conduct in consultation with employees by the year 2001. This code shall also provide for disciplinary measures in cases of transgression.

  1. Language units in government departments

Language units shall be established by the relevant structures at national and provincial level by the year 2005. The function of these units will be to deal with specific language issues of a particular department and/or province arising from this language policy, and to liaise with other departments on language matters. Language units shall report to the relevant legislatures via the department or province and to PANSALB on an annual basis.

  1. Bodies supported by government

All of the above, from 4.1 to 4.10, mutatis mutandis applies to bodies supported by government.

  1. Private Sector

Government shall encourage and support private enterprises to develop and implement their own language policies in consonance with the framework of this language policy.

  1. Language and technology

Government shall encourage and, wherever necessary, support the development of language technology for South African languages.

  1. IMPLEMENTATION PLAN
  1. Language units
Activity Actor/s Target group/s Time frame
One or more persons in each government department/province to carry out functions as in 4.11.2. DPSA and DACST, in collaboration with all national departments and provinces. All national departments and provinces. 2001 - 2006
  1. Language Code of Conduct
Activity Actor/s Target group/s Time frame
Draft a binding policy document, stipulating how public servants have to communicate and interact with the public so that language becomes an instrument for rendering effective service to the public. DACST, PANSALB and DPSA, in consultation with other government departments. All public servants. 2000 - 2001
  1. Language audits
Activity Actor/s Target group/s Time frame
Conduct language surveys in order to enable government structures to make informed decisions in terms of this language policy. DACST and PANSALB
Statistics SA
Government structures;
DACST, PANSALB, and other interested parties.
2000 - 2001 and periodically, as required.
  1. Language awareness campaigns
Activity Actor/s Target group/s Time frame
  1. Raise the status of African languages including Khoe and San Languages and Sign Language/s by conducting language awareness campaigns.
  2. Identify other language issues of national concern and raise awareness on the role of language in society.
DACST, PANSALB and government departments. The public. 2001 and ongoing.
  1. South African Language Practitioners' Council
Activity Actor/s Target group/s Time frame
Set up a body in order to accredit translators and interpreters and to regulate the profession. PANSALB, DACST, Department of Justice (DoJ) and SAQA. Translators and interpreters, and training institutions. 2000 - 2001.
  1. Telephone Interpreting Service for South Africa (TISSA)
Activity Actor/s Target group/s Time frame
Establish a multilingual telephone interpreting service to facilitate access to public services and programmes in citizens' language of choice. DACST, PANSALB, relevant government departments and telecommunications providers. The public. 2000 - 2001.
  1. Development of African languages
Activity Actor/s Target group/s Time frame
  1. Identify priority areas for the development of African languages and Sign Language/s.
PANSALB, DACST, and organs of civil society. All users of African languages and other affected people. 2000 - 2001, and ongoing.
  1. Support existing structures that promote the development of African languages and Sign Language/s.
PANSALB, PLCs, NLBs, DACST, institutions of learning, research institutions, professional bodies, NGOs, CBOs, and government departments. Institutions of learning, research institutions, professional bodies, NGOs, CBOs and materials providers. Ongoing.
  1. Establish and assist in establishing new structures and programmes for the development of African languages and Sign Language/s.
PANSALB, PLCs, NLBs, NLUs, DACST, institutions of learning, research institutions, private sector, individuals, professional bodies, NGOs, CBOs, and government departments. Institutions of learning, research institutions, professional bodies, individuals, private sector, NGOs and CBOs. 2000 and ongoing.
  1. Support for projects working with Southern African countries which share cross-border languages and collaborating with other African countries in the development of African languages and Sign Language/s.
SADC, DACST, PANSALB, Office of the Presidency, Departments of Foreign Affairs, Finance, Trade and Industry, AISA, UNESCO, OAU and LASU. Institutions developing African languages in Southern Africa and other African countries. 2000 and ongoing.
  1. Language and technology
Activity Actor/s Target group/s Time frame
Adapt and develop appropriate technology in order to facilitate the development and use of South African languages. DACST, PANSALB, Department of Communications, NLUs, language practitioners, institutions of learning, research institutions, IT agencies and private sector. Language programme providers, language practitioners, language users, government departments and agencies. 2000 and ongoing.
  1. Languages of learning and teaching
Activity Actor/s Target group/s Time frame
Finalise and systematically implement the existing LiEP. DoE, DACST, PANSALB, NGOs and institutions of learning. All learners, educators, and training institutions. 2001 - 2006.
  1. Budgeting
Activity Actor/s Target group/s Time frame
Provide adequate financial support for the implementation of the language policy. Department of Finance, DACST, PANSALB and all government departments and relevant structures. All agencies responsible for implementing the language policy. 2001/2002 and ongoing

(English approved on 2000-07-10)

LangPolFinal updated 06 Nov  - 2000-11-09