Language Policy: briefing


17 February 1998
Share this page:

Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report



17 February 1998


Document handed out:

Department Of Defence Language Policy Draft Number 4: Executive Summary (see Appendix)

The Director of Language Services, Mr Nonen, read through the draft policy document at the committee meeting. The proposals that came out of the document were:

1) There was a need for the use of English as the lingua franca.

2) Languages had to be linked to specific regions, e.g. if Afrikaans was dominant in the Western Cape, it should be used.

3) There was a need for a level of understanding with regards to command and control and execution of orders. However, there was also a need to promote all the languages equally.

4) There should be non-discrimination in terms of promotion and recruitment. Potential candidates should not be discriminated on the grounds of language and there was a need to close the cultural gap.

5) A need existed to communicate to ensure mutual understanding.

6) Concerning the management of linguistic diversity, there had to be a conscious effort on the part of the Department of Defence to recognise diversity and make that recognition visible, e.g. through translation and interpretation.

7) Training and utilising language facilities had to be incorporated. The Department had begun in 1997 with this.

8) Specification of language rights had to be applicable to all members of the Department.

9) It was suggested that constant monitoring and reviewing had to take place on the policy in the light of changing circumstances.

10) There had to be liaison with other organisations, for example, Pan-South African Language Board

11) The Department of Defence had to be involved in sensitising its members to the language diversity policy.

The Director said that he sought guidance and input from the committee members. The envisaged process was:

a) public hearings

b) consolidating proposals

c) discussion of revised document with Consultative Forum on Language

d) approval by cabinet

e) implementation

Members were encouraged to ask questions regarding the policy.

Mr Marais (NP) wanted to know if the Pan-South African Language Board (PANSALB) had submitted any comments. The Director mentioned that the Board raised seven points of concern on the policy. One of the points was the responsibility to be understood was solely on the originator, especially in the case where the language was not a First language. The members were informed that the comments made by the PANSALB would be made available to them.

Mr Makwetla (ANC) wanted clarity on the document he was supposed to have. He mentioned that it was inappropriate to give concrete comments on the document's content if he and other members had not received it prior to the meeting. He was not clear on the status of the document, was it in draft form or was it in its final stage, in which case where could public input be accommodated.

The Director said that the Directorate had consulted with the Council of Defence (a policy structure within Defence) and the document was still in its initial phase. Regarding the missing documentation, that was an appendix containing the names of the members on the Consultative Forum. They are:

the Director, Mr Ismail (in the Department of Defence Secretariat),

Joint Standing Committee on Defence members,


Institute for Security Studies,

Department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology,

National Language Policy (Western Cape),

Centre for Conflict Resolutions,

PRESSI, a language body.

Mr Mashimbye (ANC) asked how the process of integration was going to take place and if there were any steps in place to train officers in their own language. According to the Director, English was currently being used and training in the officers' mother tongue was not foreseeable. It would be possible if trained interpreters and trainees could give commands in those languages.

Mr Goniwe (ANC) asked what the time frames were for this policy to be implemented and were there any stop-gap measures and training programmes in place during the interim phase. The implementation was to take between three and ten years. Training in all the languages was in line with NATO proficiency levels. Regarding the stop-gap measures, the current process was along the lines of the proposal outlined. The strategy now was to facilitate communication by all possible means.

Mr Goniwe asked whether NATO's standards apply to the African languages. The committee was informed that Afrikaans had been recently admitted.

Mr Molekane (ANC) asked how the Department could say that English would be the head language when there was a recognition of the need for non-discrimination, in other words, recognition of all languages. The response was that English by necessity had become a tool for common understanding. Non-discrimination applied in terms of not using a person's language background as a reason not to recruit or to promote that person.

Mr Mashimbye wanted to know what language was used in the Department's correspondence. The answer given was English, even though it was not a written policy. Mr Mashimbye said language should not disadvantage one from advancing to higher ranks.

Mr Loots (ANC) suggested using well-trained interpreters. The answer was that this was currently being done though as yet it was low-key.

Ms Ratsoma (NP) felt that there was a need to keep English and Afrikaans as the medium of instruction as opening up now to other languages would cause more discrimination.

The Chairperson, Mr Yengeni, reiterated the point raised by Mr Makwetla regarding process and the need for sufficient time to study the draft policy paper. The Chairperson stated that there was a need for public hearings. He added that the Department of Defence should arrange another meeting but in the meantime the committee members should be given an opportunity to go through the document thoroughly.

Appendix: Language Policy: Department Of Defence Draft Number 4: Executive Summary




1. The DoD Consultative Forum on Language, which is chaired by the Chief of Policy and Planning, comprises language specialists representing the arms of the service, as well as the part-time component, members of Parliament, members representing various NGOs, members of the Pan-South African Language Board, the Department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology, the Department of Education and academics (a full list of the persons involved is given at Appendix A).

2. The DoD Consultative forum on Language were, in their deliberations, strongly guided by

a. the Constitution;

b. the White Paper on Defence.

c. the Department's requirements;

d. the Pan-South African Language Board Act of 1996; and

e. the LANGTAG recommendations to Cabinet.


3. The salient points of the present proposals are as follows:

a. The use of English as the thread language for the Department (a lingua franca for general communication, command, control and coordination as well as for training).

b. The use of the other official languages as link languages where the situation warrants or demands it.

c. The translation, when required, of important documents and training material into various official languages. This would be done by the State Language Service in conjunction with the DoD Language Service Directorate.

d. A policy of non-discrimination iro language and the recognition of the status of the official languages of our country, particularly of the importance of the knowledge of such languages within the Department.

e. The principle of obligation on the part of communicators, both recipients and originators, to ensure that mutual understanding, i.e. effective communication, has been achieved.

f. The management of linguistic diversity with the same effectiveness as other aspects of diversity within the organisation. In this context, the application of the concept of functional (situational) multilingualism (as proposed by the LANGTAG Report) is suggested as being suited to our corporate environment.

g. The training and utilisation of language facilitators (interpreters, translators), as well as the application of facilitation and enablement measures in support of the proposed policy.

h. The specification of the language rights applicable to all members of the Department.

i. Constant monitoring, reviewing and revision of the policy in the light of national policy and of changing circumstances. To this end, we propose the appointment of a Language Policy Monitoring Advisory Body broadly representative of the internal and external stake-holders.

j. Liaison with other state departments, NGOs and the Pan-South African Language Board in the context of language planning.

k. Sensitizing members of the department to the concept of language equity and to the fact that language diversity is to be considered a resource rather than a disadvantage.


5. This draft policy, in its subsequent amended forms, will be the subject of consultations with the broad spectrum of members of the Department the JSCPD, the Pan-South African Language Board, and external interest groups (by means of a public hearing). The product of these consultations will be considered by the Consultative Forum who will produce firm policy proposals for approval by the appropriate bodies.


6. There is no turnkey solution to the problems arising from linguistic diversity, whether it be at national, government or corporate level. Key factors in the successful management of linguistic diversity will be the willingness of all (across the whole language spectrum and across hierarchical lines) to solve problems as they arise and to act fairly, constitutionally and in the interests of the organisation and towards the achievement of its mission, putting aside politico- and socio-linguistic misconceptions and prejudices. The Consultative Forum is of the opinion that the proposed draft policy lays a firm foundation to this end.


No related


No related documents


  • We don't have attendance info for this committee meeting

Download as PDF

You can download this page as a PDF using your browser's print functionality. Click on the "Print" button below and select the "PDF" option under destinations/printers.

See detailed instructions for your browser here.

Share this page: