Community media key to advance language use in South Africa

Thursday, September 30, 2021

Support and funding for community media and the use of languages in schools is key to advance, promote and preserve indigenous languages in South Africa, a webinar resolved.

The webinar on the current state of indigenous language in South Africa was hosted on Thursday by the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) in collaboration with the Association of Independent Publishers (AIP) and Pan South African Language Board (PanSALB).

The webinar seeks to encourage South Africans to be deliberate in their usage and preservation of their languages, highlight personal and country risks of embracing English, whilst abdicating indigenous languages to the side and cultivate a sense of pride in using and preserving indigenous language.

Addressing the webinar, Chairperson and Board Member of the Association of Independent Publishers (AIP), Mbali Dhlomo, spoke about how the media can drive the use of African languages and what can be done to sustain indigenous languages.

Dhlomo said South Africa needs to figure out where it went wrong as a country, as nationals no longer speak indigenous languages fluently.

“The answer is that we are the ones who allowed other [European] languages to overtake ours, especially English. The teaching of indigenous languages is important because we are raising children and grandchildren who must grow up knowing their roots and identity. Unfortunately, that is no longer the case. That is something that needs to be corrected so that we can continue to take pride in who we are and where we come from,” Dhlomo said.

Dlhomo said indigenous languages still have a chance to flourish.

“When we bring this to the media, our community newspapers are headed by different tribes such as Zulu, Xhosa and the likes…We need support from main stream media and other bodies. We need financial support from advertisers and other bodies so that we can be able to spread our newspapers beyond where we are,” she said.

Professor Simphiwe Sesanti from the University of the Western Cape highlighted the importance of indigenous languages.

He said that it is not only communicating amongst each other in South Africa but learning and preserving indigenous languages will make sure that every tribe stays grounded in their history.

Sesanti said although different languages are spoken in Africa, they always tie together as some words are borrowed from other languages.

The GCIS said the webinar is a management tool that government is going to use and adopt in using indigenous languages going forward.  

The department said its role is to make sure that all languages are promoted equally and spoken in the country. –