PAN South African Language Board on Language Development

Arts and Culture

23 August 2001
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Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report

23 August 2001

Documents handed out
Guidelines for language planning and development
Language use and language interaction in South Africa
Pan South Africa language board - creation of reading clubs
Pan South African language board paper

[email protected] for document)

The Chief Director of Pan South Africa Language Board (PANSALB) presented the operation, aims and achievements of the organisation in terms of the development of languages in South Africa.


Mr Dithebe (ANC) opened the meeting by saying that he would be the acting Chairperson. The meeting was then handed over to Professor Marivate (PANSALB). Professor Marivate, the Chief Director of Pan South Africa (PANSALB) began with Mr Serote's (ANC) question on what PANSALB had done in language development. The issue of an integrated approach required further discussion with all board members.

Professor Marivate presented an overview of the past five years. Old policy decisions must not be rejected, and an authority should be set up in the form of the board. The past board was created in April 1966. In terms of the Constitution, focus areas were established and strategic guidelines were developed. In 1998, 8 people dealing with administration joined the board. It has been suggested that this number be raised to 22 people in order to deal more effectively with the focus areas of the board. These are:

Focus Area One
Strategic language planning
The board will advise the government in this regard. A few projects have been funded, an example being the Social Linguistic Survey on Language Use in South Africa (May 2001) Towards the end of the term of the last board, there were many complaints, especially against public entities. It was argued, amongst others, that language rights had been violated. Thus, language policies must be formulated and the new board will continue this.

Focus Area Two
Language and Education
This is a difficult focus area. PANSALB does not have a good relationship with the Ministry of Education. These ties must be strengthened in order to achieve this goal. The board is also working on a provincial level. This focus area is the highest spending area and many projects are funded through it.

Focus Area Three
Lexicography and Terminology development
Eleven lexicographic units for each official language were established in 1999. People from all nine languages were trained. These units were already established by the end of the term of the previous board. The eleven units were identified and computerised. Dr Ridings from Sweden, and Dr Chimanda from Zimbabwe, assisted in this regard. Custom made software has been created, and training is continuous.

The status of each of the languages is important. (It must be noted that these units are S 21 Companies).

Sesotho University of Free State - unstaffed
Setswana University of North West - unstaffed
Seswati (no university in Mpumalanga)
Branch of Tecknicon Pretoria, Nelspruit
Tshivenda Negotiation stage
Xitsonga Negotiation stage
Afrikaans Staff to be incorporated under the unit
English Established at Rhodes University
Board using this dictionary unit as model
IsiNdebele 2 staff at University of Pretoria
Business Plan indicates 2 more wanted
IsiXhosa University of Fort Hare
Problem is that it is the biggest language
Negotiations in this regard
IsiZulu University of Zululand
(similar situation to Xhosa and Ndebele)
Sesotho La Leboa University of the North

Focus Area Four
Relationships will be forged with bodies closely correlating with PANSALB. These include the National Arts Council and the National Film and Video Foundation. Projects have been embarked on which will assist Mr Ngubane to decide what to do about museums. A few projects have been funded, and an example is the translation of classics into the nine official languages.

Focus Area Five
Translating and interpreting
The Ministry of Arts and Culture has been assisted with introducing a bill regulating this aspect. The Bill has gone through all the stages and is with the Ministry now, waiting to be taken forward. At the University of Free State, 22 translators have been trained in all the languages. The Justice College will be approached in this regard. A survey has been done in terms of language services in legislation and in Parliament. The report has been given to the Ministry who also carried out a similar survey but on a larger scale.

Focus Area Six
Language Rights and Mediation
This is a large area. However, it is understaffed with only one person. It was noticed that the language speakers do not complain. Therefore a campaign has been introduced in terms of which files are developed and provinces are to be trained to raise awareness of this right to complain. Nevertheless, the major complaints have come from Afrikaans speakers.

Focus Area Seven
In terms of the PANSALB Act, research studies and projects are required. Each focus area undertakes projects from time to time. The greatest achievement in this regard is that a good relationship with the National Research Foundation (NRF) has been formed. The board lacks the time and the staff to perform this alone. NRF has assisted the board and has generated custom-made software. The foundation made its first proposals late last year. Funding has been released and there is constant monitoring and report back to the board.

The major worries of the past board were to ensure three structures in terms of the Act. Firstly, eleven lexicography units had to be established. Secondly, Provincial Language Committees (PLCs) had to be formed. In April 2001, they had been established in all provinces except for the Northern Cape because the Member of Executive Council (MEC) of that region passed away. However, by July 1 2001 the new MEC took over the matter. Provincial Language Bodies (PLBs), as advisory bodies, were also required. Initially these bodies had a vast amount of work and required a lot of money. Thus State legal advisors were contacted for assistance. For instance, the Western Cape Provincial Language Act created a PLC that assisted the MEC through its personal budget. The state advisors argued that these were PANSALB structures. Now Western Cape is used as an example. However, this caused great dissatisfaction.

Nevertheless, by drafting provincial legislation, once it is approved the MEC is obliged to budget towards language in the province. With the new Act, there will be proper budgeting. PANSALB power lies in initiating the process.

National Language Bodies (NLBs) should be established by PANSALB. This is problematic because although this may be easily carried out for the official languages, Khoisan and Sign Language are left out. These bodies will determine the standards and will thus guide the 11 official languages to link up with the units. Khoisan and Sign Language do not have lexicographic units. As advisory bodies they do not develop work and thus have no budget. This issue must be dealt with.

The question of how to make the units operate is challenging. The previous board attempted to do so. However, future prospects are good because the language speakers are determined. As a point of reflection, one must refer to the PANSALB handout. This offers the new proposed strategy. The focus will be on small subcommittees. Thus the next 5 years will be the most challenging in terms of language development.

Professor Marivate went on to list the priority areas. The major priority is to concentrate on the lexicographic units. Language must be developed with special attention paid to previously marginalised languages. The fields of education and the arts are targeted in this regard. Language rights must also be advocated. In addition there would be support for PANSALB activities, including board and management, advisory bodies, communication and research.

One problem in terms of national language bodies is that of heritage. This is language that is referred to in terms of S 6 (5) of the Constitution as 'others', (heritage being a less offensive term). It must be encouraged. S 185 of the Constitution applies in this regard.

As to the question of how this board will manage, the greatest support would come from the government.

Professor Marivate then mentioned the results of the Mark Data Report, which involved a study of language use and interaction in South Africa. The results were an eye opener. In nine provinces, 66% felt that government was the biggest source of influence, 30% said the speakers of the languages, 23% the media, 11% businesses and 11% said advertising. The greatest area where people felt they were not accommodated for was on television, then job searching (interviews are commonly in English), and in the courts. It was found that the minority language speakers were the most disgruntled, the Setswana complaining constantly throughout the report. 79% felt that English should not be the official South African language. It was also seen that only 22% understand high profile people on television when they speak in English. 90% seldom understand and 30% often do not understand at all. It is evident that too many people do not understand important information given to them in English (and this will impact on AIDS education).

24% wanted Zulu to be spoken on television, while 21% said Afrikaans, 20% Xhosa, 16% Sesotho, 8% Sepedi and 7% Setswana. The Afrikaans issue is also important because at a 99% all black high school, the majority of the parents said that both English and Afrikaans should be spoken. This shows that the education system is confronted with many issues. 37% felt that there should be mother tongue instruction and teaching of another official language available. 42% suggested that teaching be done in the mother tongue while English is taught, while 39% wanted teaching to be in both the mother tongue and in English.

A project was undertaken at the University of Durban to look at the bilingual issue. Chemistry was taught in both Zulu and English. The results were impressive because the students gradually improved with time. This shows that children are memorising more than understanding and as a result their education must be supported.

An additional challenge was literature in African languages themselves. The only supporting competition is the M-net 2000 book prize. However, this year only 9 books were from the African languages whilst there were 2 boxes of English and Afrikaans books. Publishers are unwilling to publish African books because they do not sell.

Reading clubs have been initiated, and they are strongly encouraged. The campaign will start on 7 September (refer to handout). Provincial language committees will assist here and Community Art Centres should be used as a forum to form the community library.

Professor Marivate concluded her presentation by outlining the budget. She stated that although close to R30million was asked for, only R16million was received. R11million went to PANSALB board activities. A separate fund was given from government for the National Lexicographic units. As far as advisory bodies, PLCs received R300 000, NLBs received R 461 000 and NLUs (National Lexicographic Units) received R4 990 000.

Mr Dithebe mentioned that he met with Professor Marivate very briefly only once before, but that she comprehensively covered everything. All the major challenges were heard, and one must take great cognisance of the document relating to Language Use and Language Interaction in South Africa.

Ms Kgoali congratulated PANSALB for its efforts, together with those of the past board. How this information could be made available to the public and what challenges were faced in terms of multi-lingual policies?

Professor Marivate said that communication was a huge challenge. At this stage there is no communication officer. Mr Ngubane wanted to appoint three people in this regard, but this failed (probably due to a miscommunication). R250 000 was budgeted towards publicising on radio. However, there must be an action plan to promote publicity. She was still trying to infiltrate the television market. If there was a budget, a consultant could be appointed to help her.

Mrs Baloyi (ANC) stated that she believes that in any nation, language is the pride of the place and of the culture. There was a need to go back to the schools to create interest in language and reading. How would the board work with the Department of Education and Provincial Language Boards in this regard? As this was a critical area, homes also had to be infiltrated.

Mrs Marivate replied that the PLCs would feature prominently in this regard.

Mrs Baloyi said that nothing legislative had been done to assist in strengthening the areas of concern. Was the mandate too broad? What exactly was required of legislation?

Professor Marivate replied that Mrs Baloyi had misunderstood her because in terms of the Act it is possible to narrow the mandate at this stage. Lack of focus might lead to unpopularity.

Mrs Baloyi enquired how interest would be stimulated for the community arts centres. PLCs would be helpful in this regard, but that maybe the family would have to be involved.

Professor Marivate explained that the PLCs would assist here. The lack of materials and access to books was also a problem to be challenged. An International Literacy Day was attempted and books were given to parents on trains. People read the books. Thus people want the books but the issue is how to get them.

Mr Dithebe asked whether PANSALB had researched the challenges facing mulitilinguilism. The European Union (EU) faces similar challenges and maybe South Africa could learn from them.

Professor Marivate stated that she had visited the European Parliament and had been in Belgium, and that this area had been looked at.

Mr Van Niekerk (FA) added that the information given today needed to be broadcasted.
He urged Professor Marivate to look into advertising.

Professor Marivate confirmed that this was an important issue for proper planning and money. Any ideas would be welcomed.

Mr Van Niekerk said that no mention was made regarding the development of terminology as this goes hand in hand with lexicography.

Professor Marivate said that the major problem lay with the National Department of Arts and Culture as it wants to dictate that there is no room for lexicography. This was a problematic issue and it is not clear how this would be resolved in co-operation with the Department of Education. There is a very thin line between the two and she hoped that the Ministry would assist in this regard.

Mr Van Niekerk then stated that duplication must be avoided as there must be combination and co-ordination.

Mr Dithebe added that the issue of duplication was important as all resources should be mobilised in order to effect transformation. He commented that even the MPs in this committee did not know much about PANSALB. This report should be tabled and debated because the significance of language development must be seen.

Mr Dithebe stated that the Committee looked forward to working with Dr Marivate and PANSALB as it was committed to assist, to protect and to promote the languages of our country.

The meeting was adjourned.



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