Excuses to promotion of multilingualism.
Drawing from the works of Alexander (2005), Bamgbose (2011) and Prah (2006), for the purpose of this study multilingualism is defined as the recognition by the government and non-governmental sectors that in a diverse country the various languages that people use should be given their due status through utilization in both official business and casual life. This is done in order to ensure the inclusion of everybody especially in government business. However, post-independence, many countries in Africa, including South Africa, did not display commitment toward language policies that aim at restoring indigenous languages. Colonial policies still shape the post- colonial Africa. Multilingualism has been met with negative perceptions in Africa where in some spheres, it is viewed as a divisive rather than a unifying tool. Bamgbose (2011) disputes the notion that multilingualism is exclusionary arguing that what excludes masses of people is a language spoken by a few. He notes that the status of indigenous languages is fast diminishing while imported official languages continue to enjoy dominance. He blames this on, among other factors, colonial legacy and negative perceptions toward multilingualism.
South Africa is among only a handful of nations that recognise more than three languages as official languages yet in reality only imported languages serve as official languages. Efforts to promote multilingualism are continuously undermined especially by the West which continues to superimpose its way of life upon nations it once colonised. The African elite have been key in promoting the view that African languages are inferior to colonial languages. The society puts no value on people who are multilingual yet accord high status to natives who have mastered a colonial language (Bamgbose, 2011). As alluded to earlier, this inferiorisation of indigenous languages has had negative impact on various spheres. In this section, I elected to discuss two of those spheres and they are education and media.
Multilingualism in education.
Literature measuring attitudes of South Africans toward multilingualism policies is scant and largely quantitative. It barely exposes the depth of perceptions in society thus making minimal contribution to the understanding of the issue. A quantitative study (on the implementation of the University of Kwa Zulu Natal’s bilingual policy which was introduced in 2006 and entailed using isiZulu as the university’s second official language, alongside English) by Moodley (2009) is evidence to the fact that more explorative qualitative research would be beneficial in the enhancement of our understanding of perceptions of black South Africans toward indigenous languages. The findings show that while the majority of both staff and students believe that all languages have an equal status and that all South Africans must know at least one indigenous language, they still did not believe that isiZulu should be made part of pedagogy. A lack of explorative information limits our understanding underlying such firm and somewhat contradictory beliefs. The University of Kwa-Zulu Natal is commended for taking a bold step but smooth implementation, as the findings of Moodley (2009) study suggest, will require active involvement of the people which the policy is intended for. The staff and the students of the university felt that they were not properly consulted and not even well resourced to carry out the policy. The majority of staff members reported that they lacked proficiency in isiZulu and those who can speak isiZulu did not have the ability to conduct business in it as it was not a part of their training. Challenges like these will require additional means to ensure the equipment of everyone who is expected to embrace the policy
This study’s shortfall is that the views on the lack of training in conducting business in isiZulu and the reluctance to make isiZulu an additional language of business were not weaved together. It becomes unclear therefore if participants did not think isiZulu should be used because they were not equipped to do so or there were other reasons. A similar study conducted at Wits University by Conduah (2003) found that an overwhelming majority of staff members (69%) were opposed to the use of both English and an indigenous language while 64% of third year students who participated in the survey welcomed the idea. The third year students believed that an introduction of an indigenous language would lead to effective learning and bolster the chances of academic excellence for black South African students. What seemed to unsettle students most was the choice of an indigenous language to be made a language of learning and teaching. They believe that this could lead to feelings of discrimination among the groups whose languages are not chosen.
However, Conduah (2003) together with other indigenous languages proponents (Ramoupi, 2011; Prah, 2006) believe that harmonisation of indigenous languages into a few major groups would allay those fears. The function of harmonisation is to ensure that languages that are similar are combined and developed as languages of business as single units. If done correctly, this will ease the task of having to develop nine languages that de Kadt (2005) earlier identified as the major challenge facing the development of indigenous languages in South Africa. However, it should be noted with caution that the idea will introduce a new set of challenges for South Africa. Proper dialogue with all language users might be necessary to explore all possible solutions.
This is not to argue that the fears of the students who participated in the above study are not justified. They, instead expose an interesting dimension in the debate on indigenous languages that indigenous people never question the challenges brought about by the usage of the English language for higher level functions, yet, they are quick to point out the difficulties of transforming acts. These attitudes could be seen as embedded in colonial ways of thinking and perceived social reality. Essentially, it states that South Africa is better off with a colonial system than to find ways of asserting a system that is defined indigenously. This is one of the ways in which black South Africans have contributed to the violence perpetuated against their languages. The gradual extinction of indigenous languages is an act of violence with its roots deeply entrenched in the era of oppression.
Chapter 1 Background and introduction
1.2 Research questions
1.4 Operational definitions
1.5 Layout of the dissertation
Chapter 2 Literature Review
2.1 Lack of post-Apartheid language policies implementation
2.2 Negative attitude toward indigenous languages
2.3 Excuses to promotion of multilingualism
Chapter 3 Theoretical Underpinnings
Chapter 4 Methodology
4.2 Sampling Technique
4.3 Sample size
4.4 Sample characteristics
4.5 Data collection
4.6 Epistemic relationship
4.7 Ethical Considerations
4.8.1 Language Narratives of youth
4.8.2 Suburban youth
4.8.3 Language and identity
4.9 Five youth narratives from three Gauteng townships
4.10 Focus group discussion results
4.10 Suburban focus group discussion results
4.11 Township focus group results
4.12 Policy Informants’ in-depth interview results
Chapter 5 Discussion.
5.1 Language, the epicenter of coloniality
5.2 Language is both culture and identity
5.3 Decolonial parenting
5.4 Perceiving and performing languages
5.5 Linguistic zone of being and non-being
5.7 Monitoring of policy implementers
Chapter 6 Conclusion
6.1 Language inferiorisation
6.2 Decolonising language policy
6.3 The multilingual challenge
6.4 Methodological shortcomings
6.5 Limitations and Recommendations
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In search of the absent voice: The status of indigenous languages in post-apartheid South Africa