The Language Issue in South Africa: The Way Forward?

Walter W. Mpofu Chimbga, Corinne Meier


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.

DOI: 10.5901/mjss.2014.v5n20p1424

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Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences ISSN 2039-9340(Print) ISSN 2039-2117(Online)

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