Plea to Elevate Status of African Languages

Cape Times (South Africa), February 24, 2014 | Go to article overview

Plea to Elevate Status of African Languages


BYLINE: Tebogo Monama

PRETORIA: African languages are in danger of dying out, if they are not given the same status as English and Afrikaans.

Senior lecturer of African languages and literature at UCT Dr Tessa Dowling said having African language radio and television stations was not enough to encourage the use of the languages. There are nine African language SABC radio stations.

Enrolment numbers at universities have dwindled and linguists are worried that if the numbers do not improve the languages are in danger of dying out.

Dowling said: "People at universities think it is a joke to take the language. We need to change the perception that the languages are rural, poor and traditional. We have to... campaign that they have the same status as Afrikaans and English."

UCT medical students have to take a Xhosa course.

University of Johannesburg (UJ) senior linguistics lecturer Dr Eleanor Cornelius agreed: "They should be encouraged to be multi-lingual. (But) if we force something down students' throats, it will not have good results. It is important for all students to be proficient in English and in the language of their parents and their culture and the one they dream and think in."

UJ has teamed up with the Department of Arts and Culture to give students full bursaries on condition they take an African language until their third year of study.

"That helped us increase numbers. Without the incentives, students hardly ever take up the (other) languages. English is the most popular language that students want to take because it is seen as a language of prestige, social mobility and academia."

UJ offers Sepedi and isiZulu. …

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