The Language Issue in South Africa: The Way Forward?

Type Journal Article - Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences
Title The Language Issue in South Africa: The Way Forward?
Volume 5
Issue 20
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2014
Page numbers 1424-1433
South Africa attained independence twenty years ago in 1994 but the effects of the previous apartheid government still has
remnants that continue to affect the status quo of many aspects of life. In terms of language, the apartheid government policies
elevated English and Afrikaans languages to be the languages of government, industry, higher education, business and for all
formal documentation. English has remained the de facto language of almost all spheres of life in South Africa and its linguistic
domination appears as if it will continue for a very long unforeseeable future. Whilst the county’s constitution is so elaborate in
terms of according parity to the eleven chosen official languages, the parity ends on paper, as English has remained the
language of communication in almost all formal communications. There seems to be petite political effort from the present
government to ensure parity of all languages in order for all the formerly disadvantaged languages to become at par with
English in terms of use as languages of higher education, business, industry commerce and television. Academically, South
Africa has continuously produced unsatisfactory results at matric level, which can be summarily attributed to the use of English
as the main learning language yet many do not master it. This paper sought to check how far South Africa has gone in ensuring
language parity through a review of literature. The examined literature revealed that English is still dominating all the other
languages and has remained the de facto language of all formal communications even though the country’s constitution
explicitly emphasises that all languages are equal. As it is apparent that English is a language that seems to guarantee
individuals with an easy path into the global, industrial, commercial and business spheres, ways of ensuring that students
master it as early as possible through improved teaching methods is the way to go as the other languages are still very limited
to be used as academic languages.

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