Language board commends SADC recognition of Kiswahili

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

The Pan South African Language Board (PanSALB) has welcomed the declaration by the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) to adopt Kiswahili as its fourth official language of communication.

This means Kiswahili becomes the first indigenous language to be used by the bloc as an official language at inter-state level. Existing official languages of SADC currently are English, Portuguese and French.

Kiswahili will be adopted at the level of Council and Summit, first as a language for oral communication, before eventually being adopted for written official communication within SADC.

“This milestone achievement towards recognition and elevation of indigenous African languages across the SADC region forms part of the greater effort in ensuring development, usage and intellectualisation of our heritage languages,” PanSALB chairperson of the Board, Dr David Maahlamela said in a statement on Tuesday.

The decision to adopt Kiswahili was announced at the recent 39th Ordinary Summit of the Heads of State and Government of SADC, which took place in Tanzanian at Julius Nyerere International Centre.

“Kiswahili is an impeccable point of departure in safeguarding integrative multilingualism inclusive of indigenous language. Kiswahili is inevitably well-positioned to integrate the SADC region thus we fully support this long overdue resolution,” Maahlamela said.

Kiswahili is one of the African Union’s official languages. It is also the official language of Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda with over 100 million speakers.

“PanSALB’s vision for language planning stems on intellectualisation of indigenous languages on four spheres, that is, provincial, national, regional and continental level. We have for long been very concerned that not only South Africa has experienced the marginalisation of indigenous languages, but also our SADC region, where mostly English language took prominence amongst others,” Maahlamela said.

PanSALB said Africa is the only continent where the majority of children start school using a foreign language.

The entity said across Africa, the idea persists that the international languages of wider communication (Arabic, English, French, Portuguese and Spanish) are the only means for upward economic mobility.

“South Africa as a member state has a huge responsibility ahead in ensuring that indigenous language not only becomes communication languages, but also business languages in all sectors and environment,” Maahlamela said. –