The Department will realise the full potential of arts, culture, science and technology in social and economic development, in nurturing creativity and innovation and promoting the diverse heritage of our nation
MEDIA STATEMENT BY DR B.S. NGUBANE MINISTER OF ARTS, CULTURE, SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
12 DECEMBER 1995
Minister Ngubane today announced the establishment of a Language Plan Task Group, to be known as LANGTAG. It has been appointed to advise the Minister who is responsible for language matters on devising a coherent National Language Plan for South Africa as a matter of urgency.
|The Minister pointed out that Langtag is to be a policy advisory group to his Ministry (which is the Government's executive arm on language matters) and should in no way be confused with the Pan South African Language Board (Pansalb). Pansalb will be an independent statutory body which is to be appointed by the Senate in the new year in terms of the Pan South African Language Board Act (Act No. 59 of 1995) and will be expected to monitor the observance of the Constitutional provisions and principles relating to the use of languages, as well as the content and observance of any existing and new legislation, practice and policy dealing with language matters.|
During the past months it has become clear that there is a definite tendency to unilingualism in our country. It has been argued that, although multilingualism is indeed a sociolinguistic reality in South Africa, it is invisible in the public service, in most public discourse and in the major mass media. It was also argued that the Government has failed to secure a significant position for language matters within the national development plan.
Consequently, despite the fact that our Constitution provides for the principle of multilingualism, there was still an urgent need for the Department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology to devise a coherent National Language Plan which not only addresses these issues, but also draws on the framework of the RDP and consequently maximises the utilisation of our multilingual country's human resources.
The need for such a Task Group is essential in the light of -
Minister Ngubane emphasised that a National Language Plan would have to be a statement of South Africa's language-related needs and priorities and that it should therefore set out to achieve at least the following goals:
The following persons were appointed to the LANGTAG Main Committee:
Dr Neville Alexander was elected chairperson of Langtag at its first meeting.
While admitting that there are many stumbling blocks in the implementation of a multilingual policy of which the negative attitudes to official multilingualism is arguably one of the crucial factors, Dr Ngubane said his Ministry was keen to join hands in the quest to eradicate the "multilingualism is a problem" approach which was so abundantly evident in the reasoning of some people in our country. This approach leads to unilingualism and the unacceptable subordination of marginalised groups under a dominant group which we can no longer tolerate in a democratic South Africa.
Because of the urgency of addressing this issue, the Minister requested that Langtag's report be submitted to him before the end of July 1996.
|AAC Augmentative and Alternative Communication Systems
ABE Adult Basic Education
ABET Adult Basic Education and Training
CBO Community-based organisations
DACST Department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology
DE Department of Education
GDS Growth Development Strategy
GNU Government of National Unity
HSRC Human Sciences Research Council
LANGED LANGTAG Subcommittee on Language in Education
LANGTAG Language Plan Task Group
LIEP Language-in-education policy
LOLT Languages of learning and teaching
NCHE National Commission on Higher Education
NGO Non-governmental organisation
NQF National Qualifications Framework
OAU Organisation of African Unity
PANSALB Pan South African Language Board
RDP Reconstruction and Development Programme
RPL Recognition of prior learning
SABC South African Broadcasting Corporation
SANDF South African National Defence Force
SAPS South African Police Service
SASL South African Sign Language
SMME Small, medium and micro-enterprises
UN United Nations
UNESCO United Nations Education, Science and Cultural Organisation
UNHCR United Nations High Commission for Refugees
In what follows, only the main immediate (short-term) and the more fundamental (long-term) recommendations emanating from the activities of the Subcommittees are listed. Sector-specific recommendations, which are by definition more restricted in their impact, are listed in the relevant chapters.
Background and rationale
On 9 November 1995, Dr B.S. Ngubane, the Minister of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology, inaugurated the Language Plan Task Group (LANGTAG), which was "to advise ... (him) on the issue of a National Language Plan for South Africa". In appointing the seven members of the Main Committee of LANGTAG in October 1995, Dr Ngubane1 had reminded them that -
A National Language Plan - which would be a statement of South Africa's language-related needs and priorities - should set out to achieve at least the following goals:
The Minister went on to say
... I trust that you will be able to join hands with us to collectively devise a coherent national language plan which would encompass all state structures and civil society. I regard it as imperative that this process should develop in close co-operation with language specialists and stakeholders.
At the inaugural meeting, the Minister asked that the Report of the task group be handed to him by the end of July 1996. After discussion at that meeting and consideration of the constraints of time and funds, the elected chairperson of LANGTAG, Dr N. Alexander, elaborated the Minister's brief to the Main Committee as follows in a document2 addressed to the members of the committee:
It is essential to remind ourselves that we have interpreted our brief from the Minister to mean that we are to identify the needs and priorities in regard to the realisation of the constitutional principles pertaining to the language question in South Africa and the implementation of the policies that derive from those principles. While there is, clearly, an element of policy-making implicit in this brief, our main concern is to point out to the Minister what needs to be done and how this can be done if the constitutional principles are to be effected in practice over a certain period of time.
Concretely, this means that each of us will have to consider carefully what the scope of our inquiries will be, bearing in mind, however, that we are not to conduct the detailed research which will eventuate from our report to the Minister. Should the Minister and the Cabinet accept most, or all, of our recommendations, it is conceivable that the commissioning and the overseeing of the required research during the next few years will be undertaken by the PANSALB.
... Our job is to establish a macro-framework within which the drafting of a national language plan can be conceptualised and operationalised.
This background should make it clear that what LANGTAG did during the effective eight months of its existence was to reconnoitre the terrain on which the National Language Plan will take shape. We tried to arrive at an enabling framework rather than to put forward a prescriptive blueprint. If our work has been done properly, there ought not to be much more labour expended in establishing the big picture and those who will be asked to implement the process of working out all the essential details for ensuring the success of the official language policy should be able to do so immediately. We of the Main Committee hope that the guidelines worked out by the Subcommittees are sufficiently orientating and indicative to enable the researchers and the practitioners who will take the matter further in each sector and in each sub-sector to do so both substantively and in respect of the methods that are necessary for the success of their project.
|The first question on which the Minister will have to make a decision is whether the National Language Plan for South Africa should be a single detailed document which is a rigid blueprint or an open-ended enabling framework containing numerous examples and guidelines for the development of detailed micro-plans, captured in legislation where this is appropriate, with built-in flexibility. There is consensus within LANGTAG that the latter is the correct way to go having regard to the recent history of South Africa, the transitional character of the present period and the universal scepticism in regard to social blueprints in the wake of the global transformations that have altered the shape of the world since the mid-eighties.3|
Constraints of time and resources necessarily influenced the scope and the modalities of the LANGTAG investigation. Eight months and a budget of approximately R800 000,00 were clearly not enough to undertake an in-depth inquiry, bearing in mind that a single national advertising campaign in the print media calling for nominations for members of Subcommittees cost more than R130 000,00! With one possible exception, all the members of the Main Committee were in full-time employment and could devote only limited attention to their LANGTAG tasks. Many of these members and their organisational bases in effect subsidised the Department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology (DACST) by using their own time and resources in the service of the national good.
Consequently, as intimated already, the LANGTAG Main Committee could do no more than to work out guidelines for approaching the task of devising a detailed National Language Plan and/or the micro-plans associated with an enabling framework. Some Subcommittees, for example the Subcommittee on Language Equity, the Subcommittee on Widespread and Equitable Language Services, the Subcommittee on Language in the Public Service and the Subcommittee on Language as an Economic Resource, found it possible to undertake limited or prototype research. Given the need to be flexible and exploratory, these constraints - far from being weaknesses - may well turn out to be strengths. They do, in our view, leave the way open for other instances such as the Pan South African Language Board (PANSALB), language NGOs and other relevant organs of civil society to carry on and refine the tasks that have emerged from the LANGTAG process. This may well turn out to be crucial in regard to the character and the legitimacy of language planning in the new South Africa (see pp. 4 and 5 below).
Another, less objective, constraint on the scope of the LANGTAG process is the fact that the seven Subcommittees and the one study group which drove it were not, and in fact could not be, inclusive of all social domains, given the physical constraints referred to above. Thus, it was pointed out that of the Government departments, only Education had originally been allocated a specific Subcommittee whereas other obviously important ones from the point of view of language policy, such as Health, Justice, Social Welfare, etc., were covered only by implication in the investigations of other Subcommittees. Similarly, the Subcommittee on Heritage Languages, Sign Language and Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) had not been asked to consider the language needs and priorities of the Blind.
True as this criticism is, it ought to be clear that much of it is in fact premised on the erroneous assumption of a plenitude of resources. More important, however, is the fact that the guidelines worked out by the various Subcommittees, with appropriate adaptations, are perfectly adequate to open up the study of any of the omitted domains and sectors.
|On the other hand, it has to be acknowledged that in the case of the Department of Justice, the possible impact of an official language policy on inter-provincial and province-central Government relations, for example the language in which judgements are written, necessitates a special and perhaps urgent in-depth study of this sector.|
Language planning and the LANGTAG process
In the "canonical model" (Bamgbose 1986) language planning is defined as
... a government-authorized, long term sustained and conscious effort to alter a language itself or to change a language's functions in a society for the purpose of solving communications problems (Weinstein, cited in Beer & Jacob 1985:2).
Or, perhaps even more pertinently:
The broadest authorization of planning is obtained from the politicians. A body of experts is then specifically delegated the task of preparing a plan. In preparing this, the experts ideally estimate existing resources in terms of development targets. Once targets are agreed upon, a strategy of action is elaborated. These are authorized by the legislature and are implemented by the organizational set-up authorized in its turn by the planning executive ... In these ideal processes, a planning agency is charged with the over-all guidance ... (Jernudd & Das Gupta 1975:196).
From the above it would seem that, at a fundamental level, the LANGTAG process does indeed partake of the features of this canonical model. This conclusion would, however, be only partially correct, since LANGTAG is itself the culmination of various intersecting processes which had their origins in civil society and which go as far back as the Soweto uprising of June 1976. From this perspective, LANGTAG is a direct result of the struggle for democracy in South Africa. The relationship of the LANGTAG process to the State is nicely captured in a scenario referred to by Weinstein (1990:3):
Depending on the links between elites, the state may extend or sanction innovations already made by writers and nonstate institutions. In this case, there is a ready-made societal constituency for state action.
|Given the fact of a democratically elected, legitimate Government committed to transparent and accountable processes, the follow-up to LANGTAG should be conceptualised as a free combination of Government and NGO initiatives and projects undertaken independently or in partnership in terms of the guidelines contained in this Report. PANSALB will in all likelihood play a pivotal role in overseeing and monitoring the entire process because of its in-between status between State and non-State spheres.|
Approach and format of this Report
The historical and constitutional context in which we are setting out to draft a National Language Plan is one of the most favourable for any nation in the second half of the 20th century. South Africa is in the midst of a rapid and deepgoing transition from a racist, patriarchal and authoritarian past to an anti-racist, anti-sexist and democratic future. For a few more precious years, the country will resemble nothing so much as one vast social laboratory in which some of the most far-reaching social hypotheses can be explored with a sense of mission and of responsibility in the full knowledge that most of the population is open to radical change and to social transformation in general.
The creation of LANGTAG and the process by which it has arrived at this final Report are on the surface quite normal and even mundane events in a society where every question and every attempt at transformation is obviously urgent. However, viewed from the perspective of language planning as a discipline within the field of applied linguistics and as a conscious practice, the LANGTAG process, short as it has been, is indeed one of the more significant developments in the second half of the 20th century. Because of the peculiarities of the political transition in South Africa, it has unique features even as an exercise in applied linguistics, especially in its delicate balance between State and non-State elements of policy determination.
|For the sake of other practical attempts at language planning as well as for the further process in South Africa itself, it would be useful if the salient aspects of the process were to be recorded and published.|
In regard to the language question, the interim Constitution as well as the new Constitution4 are among the most progressive State documents in the world today and while the new Constitution is written in a very different style, it leaves intact the fundamental principles on which a democratic language policy for a multilingual society should be based. Let us remind ourselves of what the interim Constitution (in terms of which LANGTAG was established) says about the language issue in South Africa. The core principles are stipulated in Chapter 1, Section 3, of that Constitution (see Annexure 1).
In terms of these constitutional principles, the goals of language policy in the new South Africa can be summarised as follows:
These goals, taken together, constitute a framework of principles within which the status, corpus and acquisition planning involved in a National Language Plan have to be considered and projected. Each of the Subcommittees went about its work conscious of these goals, and their respective reports reflect this approach even if each Report is cast in a slightly different mould because of the peculiarities of each of the sectors investigated.
Certain fundamental assumptions, which have gained wide currency among language workers in South Africa, have guided us in our investigations and inform the entire text of this Report. These can be stated briefly as follows.
It is inseparable from the political, economic and cultural strategies of those who initiate it, specifically the South African Government in this case. The corollary of this assumption is that language policy in and of itself is a weak instrument and has to be reinforced by policy in the other social spheres. Thus, for example, language equity is quite meaningless if the speakers of certain languages continue to be last in the queue for well-paid jobs because their first languages do not open doors to these jobs. Examples of this relationship between language policy and other aspects of social policy could be multiplied at will.
In a multilingual society, knowledge of more than one language is an asset both in an immediate economic sense (at the workplace, for example) and in the larger social sense of opening many worlds or cultures (ways of seeing) and as a nation-building and pro-democracy practice. In the modern world, multilingualism is the norm, not the exception, and South Africa is well endowed in this respect. We work with - not against - the grain of our societal multilingualism.
No person should be prevented from the use of the language of his or her choice within the bounds of reasonableness. The democratic State is duty bound to protect this right and to assist the citizens if impediments to the exercise of their right arise through no fault of theirs.
This is particularly so in South Africa where the legacy of apartheid has to be broken down by means of the special promotion of the African languages and other marginalised languages, including Sign Language. The elaboration, modernisation and development of these languages constitute the precondition for the attainment of social, and not merely juridical, equality for the languages of the vast majority of the people of South Africa.
No person should be compelled to learn or to use any language. On the other hand, the State (and the organs of civil society) has to do everything possible to inform the citizens of the optimal combination of languages they will require to function effectively in the multilingual milieu of South Africa.
Hence, the spelling out of time-frames is an essential component of language planning and it has the added advantage of defusing the conflict potential inherent in the language question in a society riven by class, racial and gender inequalities. It is completely understandable that most people, especially those who have been disadvantaged through past policy, would want immediate redress also in matters pertaining to language. We have not tried to duck this issue of raised expectations but language planning - more than any other aspect of social planning - necessarily depends on clear time-frames and clearly defined targets.
This feature of language planning also draws attention to the fact that it is necessarily an ongoing process which requires constant evaluation and adaptation. Cooper (1989:66) makes the issue very clear:
Although determining the time of adoption is an important problem in the study of the diffusion of innovation generally and the study of communicative innovations in particular, language planners cannot ignore the time-dependent nature of change in language use, language structure, and language acquisition. Plans often specify the date at which a given change is to be accomplished ... (I)nterim evaluations, which should be routine in any organized planning, are particularly important in language planning inasmuch as we usually do not know how much time is necessary, under given conditions, to accomplish given language-planning ends. Changes occur not only in response to planning but also in response to factors over which the planners may have no control ...
|This is the reason why we have tried as far as possible to distinguish between immediate, short-term and longer-term changes that have to be initiated or planned. A careful assessment of the factors that make for success or failure in language planning, such as language attitudes, human and financial resources and material incentives to change, will have to be undertaken by those who will eventually implement the plan in any given sector or sub-sector.|
This is subject to the proviso that the users of the language are involved in and broadly accept the planning processes embarked upon: "To be acceptable and have legitimacy the language plan must be developed and implemented by legitimate actors who have authority and through acceptable decision-making processes" (see p. 188 in this volume).
Overview and general recommendations
In order to bring together the most important common elements contained in the chapterised reports of the Subcommittees, this Overview is organised under the conventional language-planning categories of status, corpus and acquisition planning. Under each of these headings the relevant findings of each of the Subcommittees are referred to or discussed in an integrated manner. At the end of the chapter, the main short- and longer term recommendations are listed. In discussing the findings of the Subcommittees, the approach to language planning advocated by Cooper (1989) and exemplified in this Report (see Chapter 7 is used as a checklist of the relevant questions that have to be posed and, if possible, answered.
Colonial and apartheid language policy, in concert with socio-economic and socio-political policy, gave rise to a hierarchy of unequal languages which reflected the structures of racial and class inequality that characterise South African society. The dominance of English - and later of Afrikaans - was sustained systematically in order to reinforce other structures of domination. These practices engendered the corollary low status of the indigenous languages and varieties of the African people and of other marginalised groups such as slaves, foreigners, the Deaf, and so forth.
All the Subcommittees arrive at the conclusion that it is urgently necessary to correct this situation through political, economic, cultural and other social interventions on the part of Government in order to promote and entrench democracy in South Africa. In language-planning terms, the most important of these interventions are deemed to be a systematically sustained series of language awareness campaigns using the media and providing incentives such as prestigious prizes, scholarships, bursaries and other material rewards for enhancing the status of the languages concerned.
The task that has to be accomplished is simply stated, but is truly mountainous. It is no less than challenging the hegemony of English - and to a lesser extent of Afrikaans - circumscribing their gatekeeping functions in our society while at the same time we set about eliminating the negative stereotypes of the African languages which are held not only by English and Afrikaans-speakers, but even by many of the speakers of the African languages themselves. Changing the existing language attitudes or "decolonising the mind" (Ngugi wa Thiong'o) is seen as essential for progress towards realising the goal of an equitable language dispensation in South Africa. Consequently, most of the Subcommittees stress the need for ensuring that the political will to carry out a consistently democratic language policy does not falter, a disaster that has befallen many other African countries in the postcolonial period. In this regard, a recent address by Professor Kahombo Mateene, the Head of the Division of Language Policy of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), at a conference held at the University of Cape Town is a salutary reminder to us of just how important it is that we should succeed with our Language Plan in South Africa. In his closing remarks in the keynote address, he made the following, almost heartrending statement:
The ultimate and challenging task remaining is for us to start and sustain a big campaign which can change the minds of those who, because of the effects of a long period of brainwashing, resist the introduction of African languages in education. The present language policy having failed and constituted a roadblock against the accessibility to education for all, the only alternative is to try the one proposed by the OAU Language Plan of Action for Africa. The goal of education for all cannot be achieved with the linguistic barriers made by non-native media of instruction.
As you have noticed, in the context of linguistic and cultural diversity, monolingualism is as bad as the principle of "one state - one party - one leader". It is rejected as undemocratic.
At (sic) this occasion, I must, on behalf of the OAU General Secretariat, thank and congratulate the Republic of South Africa for being the first Member State to put in a Constitution and look for the best ways of implementing a language policy that is very similar to the one proposed by the OAU Language Plan of Action for Africa (see Appendix 2). South Africa may be the last country to join the OAU, but it has given a lesson of democracy which all the others still have to take and apply" (Mateene 1996:12-13).
All the Subcommittees agree that while the officialisation of nine of the African languages used in South Africa is a great step forward, it is not enough. They consequently advise that these (and other) languages be used in high-status functions such as parliamentary debates, languages of learning and teaching in all phases of education, from pre-school up to the universities and the technikons, in the print and electronic media and for domestic (national, regional and local) business transactions.
It is stressed by the Subcommittees concerned that the peculiar issues relating to the more marginalised African languages, and to SASL, Heritage languages and AAC be given special attention and that status planning be undertaken in close consultation with the communities concerned and with their legitimate and representative structures. This is considered to be a matter of the utmost urgency. In this connection, the politically determined prejudice that often still stigmatises speakers of Afrikaans and Zulu is identified as an issue that should be addressed seriously (see Chapter 1).
In order to give effect to the strategies suggested, reliable baseline information and targeted research are required. The Subcommittee reports indicate what the most important gaps in our knowledge of the linguistic demography of our country are and what research is necessary in order to fill these and to provide a launching pad for practical action. In particular, the Subcommittees stress the need for targeted research in the short term, as opposed to longer-term studies that are necessary to determine the degree of language shift and language maintenance as well as other sociolinguistic trends.
The general orientation of the Subcommittees - even if it is not always made explicit - is one of functional multilingualism, but not in the sense of a diglossic situation where the languages are forever doomed to be used in certain domains only. It is an open-ended functional approach such that as languages become usable in any domain their users will be constitutionally (and in practice) entitled to require that they be so used.
In regard to the implementation of strategies, there is a general feeling among the Subcommittees that national co-ordination and monitoring (evaluation) are responsibilities of both the DACST, which is the line department in charge of language matters, and the Pan South African Language Board (PANSALB), which is a statutory but independent body set up - among other things - to monitor legislation pertaining to language policy and practice and to handle complaints in regard to violations of citizens' language rights. Sectoral and provincial or regional implementation and evaluation are to be undertaken by the relevant Government, NGO, community-based and private-sector bodies. Thus, for example, the national Department of Education (DE) has to implement those aspects of the Language Plan pertaining to education in all phases which are consistent with the norms and standards agreed upon by educators. The Language Plan serves to indicate to the DE how its policy and practice articulate with those of other sectors and to that extent it would have a certain parametric significance.
In general, it is recommended that every Government department have one or more persons specifically charged with attending to the language-policy aspects of the department and its linkages in this respect with other departments and especially with DACST and with PANSALB, which, together, will constitute a kind of clearing house for language matters6.
Besides the integral connections between status, corpus and acquisition planning, the original brief of the Minister quite explicitly required LANGTAG to consider how -
the African languages, which have been disadvantaged by the linguicist policies of the past, should be developed and maintained .
The relevant Subcommittees (see especially Chapters 2, 4, 5 and 8) all identified the negative attitudes of many speakers of African languages, the relative lack of literary materials, such as specialist dictionaries, glossaries, post-literacy reading materials, popular magazines, journals, etc., and the scarcity of well-trained technical experts such as terminographers and terminologists, trainers of translators and interpreters, teacher educators and competent trainers of literacy facilitators who are first-language speakers of the languages concerned as the main challenges to be addressed.
On the other hand, there is absolute clarity in the reports about what has to be done and how it should be done. While it is clear that fundamental changes will make heavy demands on the fiscus and will in any case require time to take effect, the reports propose that the technical infrastructure (which now supports only English and Afrikaans) should be extended or created for the other languages and phased in over a period of time in an organic manner, i.e., in consultation with the actual and the potential users of the relevant services. Training facilities and programmes for teachers, translators, interpreters, terminologists, terminographers, language technicians, etc., as well as the requisite technical equipment, should be initiated and vigorously supported. Universities and technikons are expected to play a catalytic role in regard to the creation of training programmes and the accreditation of courses but NGOs can also undertake innovative work.
The compilation of dictionaries, glossaries and specialist terminologies is seen as an urgent if ongoing task since these are the essential tools of interpreters, translators, scientists and technologists and often serve as indicators of the level of development of a language. The proposed legislation amending the Act on the Woordeboek van die Afrikaanse Taal in order to render more equitable the treatment of the official languages in respect of State support for approved dictionary projects is seen as a major step in the right direction.
This is an area in which major research projects will have to be designed and supported over a relatively long period of time. Consequently, it is of the utmost importance that PANSALB and - where appropriate - DACST receive proposals for such research and monitor closely the progress made. Some of the essential research projects are listed or suggested in the relevant reports (see, for example, Chapters 2, 4 and 8).
While the most relevant Subcommittees in regard to acquisition planning, i.e., the Subcommittee on Language in Education and the Subcommittee on Literacy, have obviously reported in detail on this aspect of the National Language Plan, other Subcommittees (the Subcommittee on Heritage Languages, Language in the Public Service, Widespread and Equitable Language Services and Language as an Economic Resource) indicate that systematic planning for a situation characterised by multilingually proficient citizens is essential in terms of the language-planning goals they have identified in their sectors.
In this connection, there are three decisive factors. These are -
The importance as well as the definition of literacy are questions that need to be put in the centre of the language debate. In particular, the conceptual approach underpinning planning decisions for literacy should include both child and adult literacy, thus taking into account literacy acquisition, usage and development at all ages and stages. People need to make sense of reading and writing in domains ranging from family to work, to wider social and cultural contexts in order for literacy to be meaningful in their lives. In South Africa, where the uses of literacy in African languages need to be developed, such planning provides possibilities for effective literacy programmes which integrate literacy into the lives of families and communities.
Most of the reports accept the idea of establishing language service centres, where all language-related issues and communication problems can be addressed, in communities, towns and cities. Such centres will not only serve very practical purposes connected with the learning of spoken, written and signed languages, but will be visible evidence of the social significance of language and the job-creating potential of the language industry.
For purposes of evaluation, acquisition planning is dependent on reliable methods of assessment of language proficiency and this notoriously difficult issue (see Cooper 1989:162-163) is given considerable attention in the relevant Subcommittee reports. In this connection, the move towards generic syllabuses for language courses consonant with the National Qualifications Framework is of great significance even though there is a long way to go before we can be certain of its utility.
Finally, a word is necessary about an important premise which is not articulated in any of the Subcommittee reports, viz., the fact that the deracialisation and deghettoisation of the urban areas of South Africa will optimise the conditions for the acquisition of additional languages. Again, it becomes very clear that language planning has to be approached in the context of overall social planning and social transformation. As a contribution to that process, South Africa's National Language Plan is an essential, but it cannot be an isolated step.
In order to facilitate access to the full LANGTAG Report summaries of each chapter are presented below.
CHAPTER 1: LANGUAGE EQUITY
In order to identify the needs and views of the people in relation to language equity, the Subcommittee drafted the following questions:
The Subcommittee notes that the new dispensation is, on paper, very favourable to language equity but in practice there are many constraints of a material as well as a political and socio-psychological nature which limit the possibility of realising a policy based on the principle of equity. In order to understand these constraints, the following questions have to be grappled with:
The Report goes on to discuss the attitudes that exist towards language equity and notes that at national level the official attitude is clearly pro-English and that interpreting services in Parliament are for all practical purposes limited to English and Afrikaans. It also notes the "blatant hegemony" of English on SABC TV and the fact that central Government does not appear to have done anything about this. It notes further that at provincial level, there are only a few cases where all or some of the official languages other than English have received any attention and that at local Government level the tendency is to use only English at meetings.
In regard to grassroots attitudes, the Report states that while most people favour English because of its importance as an international language, "there is also a feeling that the other languages of South Africa should be fostered, especially as a subject at school, and for expression in the arts". It stresses that there is widespread dissatisfaction among all language groups with the handling of languages by SABC TV.
Strategies and recommendations
The Report ends with a series of recommendations on language in education, language and the economy and language services, which reinforce the recommendations of the relevant Subcommittees of LANGTAG.
CHAPTER 2: LANGUAGE DEVELOPMENT IN SOUTH AFRICA
The Report begins with a brief overview of what is generally understood by the term language development. This is followed by a short overview of the history of language development in South Africa. The Report closes with a series of recommendations.
Language development, the Report says, is aimed at the development of a standard orthography and spelling system, vocabulary elaboration and modernisation, the creation of technical registers, and the elevation of the status of a language.
In its discussion of the history of language development in South Africa the Report deals with the role of missionary societies, activists and politicians, the South African Government, and linguists. Particular attention is paid to language standardisation and the question of the unification of dialects and languages (the "harmonisation" issue), and the work of the old language boards. The link between language development and political ideology is also dealt with.
After a brief overview of the basic tools necessary for language development, the Report lists a number of recommendations, which include the following:
CHAPTER 3: LANGUAGE AS AN ECONOMIC RESOURCE
This Report comprises a short introductory section on the values, goals and objectives of language policy in relation to the economy, a statement of the basic views with which the Subcommittee operated (the relationship between language and economy, the notion of language as an economic resource, and the role of language in a growth and development strategy), an analysis of the external or global environment, a discussion of the language situation in South Africa in its relevance to economic matters, the goals of a language policy/plan directed at economic development (in particular the notion of functional multilingualism), a list of recommendations, and an indication of the research work which needs to be done in the domain of language as an economic resource.
The Report highlights the interim constitutional principles of democracy, equity and development. It identifies as the goals of national language policy in the economic sphere:
Language and the economy
In this section the following points are stressed:
The global context
Essentially, this section of the Report argues that the global shift from Fordist to post-Fordist production methods and the imperatives of globalisation have led to a demand for managers and workers who are multilingual and multiliterate. Following the findings of important economic and language scholars, it maintains that "English is not enough" and demonstrates the validity of this assertion by means of cogent examples. It demonstrates that L2 programmes in former colonial languages in Africa have failed in relation to the vast majority of the relevant populations and refers to the Japanese model in which the native language was elaborated and modernised systematically so that the indigenous people were organically part of the industrial, scientific and technological revolutions. It concludes that "... sustainable development will only be possible if education occurs via African languages together with English at all levels ...". The Report also shows that most people in business take language for granted; it is as though they see their economic activities through the window pane of the relevant language and never look at the pane itself.
The domestic context
The Report sketches the political changes that have made necessary a radical change of policy in all spheres, including language policy. Democratisation, respect for linguistic diversity, admission into the African and re-admission into the international community are the most important factors influencing the relationship between language policy and economic change in South Africa today.
In the light of these dramatic changes, the Report finds that South Africa is grossly underprepared to take advantage of the new economic opportunities. It lists the dismal statistics of illiteracy, poor formal education, lopsided language knowledge or proficiency among workers and managers and above all counter-productive workplace policies and practices in respect of language use.
The Report focuses on the role of language in the following:
In addition, the language industry is also discussed.
Guidelines for State policy on language as an economic resource
A central issue dealt with in section 5 is the notion of functional multilingualism, according to which a policy of multilingualism does not imply that all languages have to be used for all functions, but rather that different languages may be appropriate for different functions. A second important matter dealt with is the interface between Government, the private sector and non-Government forums as regards language policy and planning.
The recommendations made in the Report include the following:
A number of important topics relevant to language and the economy are listed for further and in-depth research in the next few years in order "to operationalise functional and economically advantageous multilingualism". These include -
The Report appends a bibliography on language and economic development.
CHAPTER 4: LANGUAGE IN EDUCATION
The work of this Subcommittee was paradoxically complicated and facilitated by a parallel process of language policy formulation within the DE. At the outset, it was clear that the planning process had to take place in consultation between the two ministries, i.e., the DE and the DACST. Hence, a senior official of the DE was co-opted on to this Subcommittee and the chairperson of Langed was co-opted on to the committee that was drafting the new language-in-education policy of the DE. For this reason, too, it is advisable to read the Report of the Subcommittee alongside the new draft language policy.
The Report identifies the goals of language-in-education policy, lists the most important "baseline information" required for the planning process, suggests possible targets and time-frames and identifies some of the fundamental research and development that has to be undertaken. It ends with a brief discussion of the possible relationship between the DE and the Pan South African Language Board (PANSALB).
In accordance with the interim constitutional principles, the Report identifies, among others, the following goals of language-in-education policy (LIEP) -
The Report suggests that data relating to the following categories be collected in the course of 1997/98 in order to facilitate language planning in the educational sector:
Targets and time-frames
Under this rubric, the Report suggests that realistic targets and time-frames be established for the training of teachers to handle language across the curriculum and to teach their specialist subjects in at least two languages; the upgrading of training facilities; the creation, publication and distribution of educational resources; and the introduction, trailing and widespread application of appropriate language syllabuses. Attempts at costing all of these exercises should be undertaken. The Report regards the overall target as "a situation where it will be possible to learn and teach any of the standard matriculation subjects offered in South African schools through the medium of the parents' or ... the child's choice".
Research and development
The Report highlights issues of importance for immediate and ongoing research and development. These include -
The Report ends with a discussion of the most appropriate relationship between PANSALB and the DE which, it assumes, will be the two most important agencies in the implementation and development of LIEP. While most of the detailed planning and implementation will obviously fall to the DE, a co-operative relationship with PANSALB is projected such that monitoring indicators to be supervised by PANSALB are arrived at jointly. PANSALB will presumably also have to monitor the relationship between the DE and the provincial departments of education in respect of the compatibility of principles, policy, legislation and practice in regard to language in education.
CHAPTER 5: LITERACY
Definition and process
The Subcommittee agreed on the need for a working definition based on, inter alia, the UNESCO and UN definitions, these being sufficiently comprehensive to cover the Subcommittee's brief. The need to approach literacy and numeracy as inseparable twin areas was stressed, as were the (1993) constitutional stipulations and the LANGTAG Main Committee's (1995) guidelines on the need to promote multilingualism in literacy and formal education. The domain of literacy was defined to include out-of-school youth. The Subcommittee also distinguished between ABET and literacy in the narrower sense since the former tends to focus on skills training and to be industry-specific. This can be in conflict with the main purpose of literacy programmes, which is to help learners to meet the challenges of daily living across a wide range of situations. The Subcommittee examined in depth some of the relevant aspects of the field:
Review of literacy planning
The Subcommittee reviewed status, corpus and acquisition planning in the field of literacy in South Africa. It noted that there was no comprehensive plan in existence and established, among other things, that:
The Subcommittee recommends that the Minister -
1.1 the constitutional clauses relating to the status planning of South
1.2 the provision of materials for corpus planning
1.3 classes for acquisition planning
2.1 current debates on assessment in status planning
2.2 funding for the production of materials as well as materials produced by the erstwhile language boards in African languages in order to remedy shortages in corpus planning
2.3 classes conducted by NGOs; easy access to funding in acquisition planning
3.1 debates around status planning issues
3.2 development of materials writers; training of translators and interpreters in ABE; African writers' associations (corpus planning)
3.3 classes and teacher training on a large scale (acquisition planning)
4.1 a forum for the review of the DACST's own policy (status)
4.2 funding for materials development or help in procuring such funding (corpus)
4.3 for teacher training on a wider scale; retraining for unemployed educators; appropriate salary scales for educators in the literacy field (acquisition).
CHAPTER 6: LANGUAGE IN THE PUBLIC SERVICE
In the course of the LANGTAG process, it became increasingly clear that the issue of language in the Public Service warranted a separate study. The following views are based on a first draft compiled by two of the members of the Main Committee who agreed to undertake the preliminary study. It is agreed that further study of this domain will have to be undertaken by agencies such as the State Language Services and PANSALB.
A policy on the use of languages in and by the Government of National Unity (GNU) through its Public Service management agencies should aim at -
The Report quotes the sections of the interim Constitution which have a bearing on the language rights of citizens. It is critical of subsection 8 of section 3 in which provision is made for Parliament and provincial legislatures to regulate the use of the official languages for governmental purposes but which adds that "questions of usage, practicality and expense" should be taken into account. The substance of this criticism is that this "... introduces the 'multilingualism is a costly problem' approach to the discourse on language diversity...".
Multilingual practice in the Public Service
The study highlights the fact that despite the constitutional commitment to multilingualism, there are numerous constraints on effecting such a policy. It refers specifically to the drift towards unilingualism in the Public Service and cites a few telling examples. The Report warns against the vague assumption that "multilingualism engenders excessive public expenditure" and suggests that ascertaining the "value of a language" is not as straightforward as cost-benefit analyses seem to suggest. It points to the irony of the fact that one of the central documents of the GNU, the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP), is available only in English. Even documents targeted for populations that can only read or understand a specific language are often not available in the relevant language. The RDP itself does not address the language question in South Africa!
The study comes to the conclusion that "... (t)he GNU has failed to grasp and acknowledge the role of language in securing equal access to the services it manages on behalf of the citizenry ... (I)t has failed to ensure equality of opportunity and equity in results ... by not effectively removing language barriers for all citizens when accessing Public Services". African language speakers continue to be at a distinct disadvantage compared with English and Afrikaans speakers. Similarly, the smaller and more marginalised African languages remain invisible in comparison with the larger languages such as Zulu, Xhosa, Pedi and Tswana. The danger of conditioning people to the invisibility of these languages is very great.
Important Government documents should be translated into all the official languages since this has an important bearing on the enhancement of their status. The example of Afrikaans is cited in this connection. "It can be argued that people would predictably gradually acquire the habit of reading such texts in their own language, and as more documents become available in these languages, more people will read them".
The Report suggests that, since "standard procedures" in the Public Service are still mainly targeted at those persons with a sound knowledge of English and Afrikaans, a Language Policy Strategy for the Public Service should be devised to address the issue of the allocation of certain languages to specific administrative tasks and Government publications.
An important recommendation is that a Language Code of Conduct for the Public Service be developed and disseminated as a matter of urgency. The study further suggests that the scope of use of Plain Language in Government publications needs careful assessment since it is costly and undemocratic to publish documentation which is comprehensible only to an elite.
The study lists the essential information on which a strategy for language equity in the Public Service can be based. This includes:
CHAPTER 7: HERITAGE LANGUAGES, SIGN LANGUAGE AND AUGMENTATIVE COMMUNICATION SYSTEMS
The Report begins with a discussion of the delineation of the languages it has to cover and the possible terms which can be used to label them. It explains that, in the end, the term Heritage languages was deemed to be the most suitable. It goes on to enumerate the African, Asian, European, Religious and Sign Languages of South Africa that are considered to be Heritage languages. It defines Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) as any mode of communication used by people who have no means of expressing themselves through speech even though they are not primarily hearing-impaired or deaf. It is stressed that no delineation can ever satisfy everybody.
Goals of the Language Plan
Following the Constitution, the Report cites as the overt ends of the Plan -
The latent goals of the Language Plan are addressed briefly, and it is suggested that one of these is to promote human dignity in a practical manner. There is no contradiction between allegiance to a Heritage language and allegiance to a united South Africa. Another of the latent goals is the promotion of fundamental human rights.
The overall aim of the Language Plan is to ensure that as far as practicable each user of a Heritage language and each user or potential user of AAC has the opportunity to participate in South African society in a meaningful manner. This is seen as compatible with the language-as-a-resource orientation.
Present and preferred behaviour
Under this rubric, the Report discusses in some detail the real behaviour of South Africans in respect of these languages against the background of the overt ends of the Language Plan. The findings are contradictory, e.g., great respect for religious Heritage languages but scant regard for, and even condescension towards, the other Heritage languages. The drift into English away from the Heritage languages by third-generation immigrants and others is noted and analysed and it is recommended that information and awareness campaigns be launched to show the importance and usefulness of multilingualism and the maintenance of these languages. A plea is made for the rapid development of the necessary infrastructure, including interpreter services that will ensure the future of these languages and communication systems.
In regard to the development of these languages, the Report notes the neglect, especially in the educational system hitherto, of the Heritage languages and special language systems and welcomes the recommendations that have emanated from the DE's discussion document on language policy. Some of these, it believes, provide openings for the development of these languages. It makes various suggestions in regard to the mobilisation of funds and resources to enable the relevant communities to maintain and promote the development of their languages.
Parameters of constraint and support
The Report notes that certain recent situations and events and social, cultural, and religious parameters, as well as political, economic and informational parameters, may have a bearing on the development and implementation of a Language Plan for Heritage Languages, Sign Languages and AAC. The unequal situation of the different language communities is pointed out and it is recommended that a careful situation and needs analysis be undertaken. Demands from these communities on Government can be expected to increase dramatically and the parameters mentioned here will, therefore, have to be researched in an ongoing manner. Information parameters are especially important in the case of small, sparse, poor and perhaps "illegal" communities.
Target groups and means of implementation
The target groups are the communities who use Heritage languages, Sign Language and AAC, Government officials and the public at large. The Report stresses the need to promote the plan by means of the modern advertising and marketing industry so that it becomes the property of all the people. Without such acceptance, no amount of resources and implementation mechanisms can prevent failure.
Monitoring and evaluation
To monitor the implementation and progress of the Plan the desired level of the desired behaviour should be formulated as well as how progress could be measured and when or how the plan should be re-evaluated.
Monitoring of the implementation of the Language Plan for users of Sign Language and AAC could be done by setting criteria in terms of the percentage of potential users gaining access to AAC and Sign Language; and by evaluating the educational achievement, the employment rate, and the level of independent living of users of AAC and Sign Language.
Further research and recommendations
The Report identifies the need to continue researching the entire domain but especially issues such as more and better data on the relevant language communities, on the involvement of Government and the availability of Government support for these languages and language systems and on the attitudes of the communities, Government officials and the adult population towards the overt and the latent goals and towards one another.
Legitimacy: actors and decision-making
The Report sketches the three levels of actors in the planning process, to wit, the first level, which includes the Ministry of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology, LANGTAG and PANSALB; the second level consisting of other Government ministries, directors-general, commissioners, etc., PANSALB, relevant NGOs and community organisations, international advocacy and resource agencies, e.g., UNHCR, Alliance Française, etc.; and "last but not least the people of South Africa ...".
Middle level management plays an important third level role since it assesses needs and communicates policy to front-line staff, and reflects back to higher management the inconsistencies and mutually exclusive priorities that occur when implementing different types of policies intended for different purposes.
The Report stresses the processes of research and consultation by which the members of the Subcommittee arrived at their findings and recommendations, and names the members of the Subcommittee.
The Report makes it clear that the document is no more than an indication of the lines along which a Language Plan for these languages could be developed and recommends that the following issues be dealt with in the Plan:
CHAPTER 8: EQUITABLE AND WIDESPREAD LANGUAGE SERVICES
This Report comprises four sections, viz., an introduction, a section on fact finding, a section on implementation, and a brief note on evaluation.
The Report describes the goals of the Subcommittee as being the investigation of the existing services and their adequacy and determining the requirements for satisfying the increasing demand for language services at all levels of Government. It describes the methods used and highlights the constraints of time and organisation that Subcommittee members were subject to as well as the fact that most public sector personnel have only a limited awareness of language issues and do not make them a priority: "Because the language issue is interwoven with other issues of power relations, and runs through all that people do, it is ... difficult for many people to isolate a need for language services as a problem and a concern".
Language services are defined as "action by government and other agencies to facilitate communication within a multilingual context to ensure access, equity and participation".
In the field of translation and interpreting services provision, the Report identifies a series of problems, viz. -
On the basis of the individual reports submitted by members of the Subcommittee, audits of the following areas are given:
The Report concludes that while training services for translators are widespread at tertiary institutions, there is only one comprehensive training course for interpreters. The African languages are not adequately provided for but this is partly because of a lack of perceived demand. Again, Government commitment is seen as the source of the problem. Both in respect of the professional training of interpreters and of available resources and support structures, the gap between English and Afrikaans on the one hand and the African languages on the other is enormous.
Stakeholder respondents to a questionnaire administered by the Subcommittee spotlighted the following problems:
Recommendations and implementation
On the basis of the research the Subcommittee was able to carry out, the following recommendations were arrived at:
The Report goes on to recommend the designing of an Integrated Language Strategy in order to establish the comprehensive language services infrastructure implicit in the interim constitution. It lists the work that has to be accomplished under the rubrics of further research and audit, training, language teaching and learning and incentive schemes. It also calls for the necessary enabling legislation to put such an infrastructure in place and discusses at some length the possible future role of the State Language Services as a language planning agency. In regard to translation services, the Report recommends that provision be made for a new service, i.e., précis translation, a concept developed in the context of needs-driven, appropriate language services.
The Report ends with a brief reference to the need for and the availability of internal and external evaluation mechanisms and processes.
Bamgbose, A. 1987. When is language planning not language planning? JOURNAL OF WEST AFRICAN LANGUAGES, 18, 6-14.
Beer, W. & Jacob, J. 1985. LANGUAGE POLICY AND NATIONAL UNITY. Totowa NJ: Rowman and Allenheld.
Cooper, R. 1989. LANGUAGE PLANNING AND SOCIAL CHANGE. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Jernudd, B. & Das Gupta, J. 1975. Towards a theory of language planning. In Rubin, J. & B. Jernudd (eds.): CAN LANGUAGE BE PLANNED? SOCIOLINGUISTIC THEORY AND PRACTICE FOR DEVELOPING NATIONS. Honolulu: The University Press of Hawaii.
Mateene, K. 1996. OAU's Strategy for linguistic unity and multilingual education. Keynote address delivered at the INTERNATIONAL SEMINAR ON LANGUAGE IN EDUCATION IN AFRICA. University of Cape Town, 15-19 July 1996, unpublished mimeo.
Weinstein, B. (ed.). 1990. LANGUAGE POLICY AND POLITICAL DEVELOPMENT. Norwood NJ: Alex Publishing Corporation.
Thanks and Acknowledgements
Thanks are due firstly to the many organisations and individuals who sent in written submissions to the LANGTAG Subcommittees or who attended the workshops and National Consultative Conference on 29 June 1996. Also to the many people who gave of their time and knowledge to assist us in finding our way through the maze of literary and other sources that have undergirded our investigations. We wish to thank, secondly, the Director and staff of the State Language Services for the unstinting support services they have rendered to the LANGTAG process. On occasion, things were quite difficult and deadlines were always pressing but the equanimity with which things were handled and problems solved was a lesson in courtesy and dogged efficiency. Finally, a special word of thanks to Minister Ben Ngubane and to the Director-General of the Department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology, Roger Jardine, both for their confidence in us and for their quiet but definite support for what we were trying to do. Without their initiative, the LANGTAG process and the National Language Plan would have remained no more than a suggestion.
Approved with amendments by the LANGTAG Main Committee, Pretoria, 3 August 1996:
Neville Alexander (Language in Education)
Anne-Marie Beukes (Language in the Public Service)
Qedusizi Buthelezi (Language Equity)
Khethiwe Marais (Equitable and Widespread Language Services)
Themba Msimang (Development of (South) African Languages)
A.C. Nkabinde (Literacy)
Gerard Schuring (Heritage Languages, Sign Language and AAC)
Victor Webb (Language as an Economic Resource)