No burden in 11 official languages - Xingwana

Sunday, February 21, 2010
By: 
Nthambeleni Gabara

Pretoria - Government considers South Africa having 11 official languages as an asset rather than a burden, says Arts and Culture Minister Lulu Xingwana.

Xingwana unveiled government's multilingualism campaign at Freedom Park, Pretoria on Saturday.

"Government considers its many languages as asset, but not a burden. While committed to political and economic integration, government actively promotes the freedom of its citizens to speak and write in their own languages," she said.

She said the country must be quick to understand that its languages are assets in cultural, social and also economic terms, adding that similar campaigns are necessary to raise public interest in language matters.

Xingwana also pledged to support measures in place in place to promote multilingualism.

"When I say multilingualism, I mean two things essentially: respect for linguistic diversity and language learning," she said.

Government's commitment to multilingualism is also longstanding. In 2003, Cabinet endorsed a National Language Policy Framework (NLPF).

This was done with a view to establishing the principle of linguistic diversity.

The motto on the Coat of Arms, "Diverse People Unite" is a reflection of the multilingualism which lies at the heart of the national policy on language.

Xingwana outlined three strands of the multilingual policy to focus on during the campaigns. These include encouraging language learning and promoting linguistic diversity in communities; promoting a healthy multilingual economy; as well as promoting social integration through improved knowledge and acceptance of different languages.

Through a bursary scheme, Xingwana's department offers language-learning opportunities and training in language practice.

The scheme seeks to build linguistic capacity, improving skills for language practitioners and raising awareness of the importance of languages.

The youth who attended the launch commended government for launching the multilingualism campaign.

17-year old Khabonina Masuka of Mamelodi said: "As young people we view this as an important move because we need to be proud of our own indigenous languages."

Mxoxolo Salmani, 18 of Westonaria said government's plan to promote its languages will make more people realise that in South Africa there is no language which is inferior.

Pascalis Moletsane, 17, also from Westonaria said he was prepared to learn other languages such as Tshivenda and Xitsonga. UNESCO declared February as international Mother Tongue Day.

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