MyNews24 is a user-generated section of The stories here come from users.

Siya Weza
Comments: 0
Article views: 331
Latest Badges:

View all Siya Weza's badges.

When your language doesn’t matter, the language story in South Africa.

14 March 2016, 12:59

A response to Rennie Naidoo’s article titled South Africa’s Language Games: Moving us forward or Backward?

I am writing this letter to you sir not because I am a member of the ANC or EFF. I am just shocked by your level of thinking and your condescending tone toward indigenous languages.

As per your request let me help you with a few words, please see below in isiZulu:

Quadratic equations – Izilinganiso ezikhwadrathikhi

Trigonometry – Trigonometri

Geometry – Jiyometri

Quantum Mechenics – ikhwantamu mekhenikhi

Arbitrage - Abhitraji

Technical Language as you put it

While I might agree with you when you say that the subjects taught at University level have their own technical terms. It would be a misconception to believe that these cannot be used in conjunction with any other language except English, Afrikaans (or European languages in general).  Many of these technical terms did not originate from English even though they are viewed as English today. Take for an example the word trigonometry, it comes from the Greek words trigonon and metron. While many of these technical terms you refer to have been used to name objects, processes, models and so on, the broad explanation of the processes or the theory involving such terms can the done in any language.  Example:

  • The source of voltage within a battery is known as emf and measured in volts. Batteries generally have internal resistance therefore we can view a battery as the emf connected to a resistor r.

  • Isizinda sevoltheji ebhetrini saziwa ngokithu i-emf kanti ikalwa ngama volthi. Imvamisa amabhetri aba nerezistensi ngaphakathi ngakhoke singathatha ngokuthi ibhetri i-emf exhunywe ne rezista r.

My point here is that even English was not an academic language at some point in history, but it was developed into what it is today. This included borrowing words from other languages and naming things, ideas, concepts and so on.   If this is true for one language, why can’t it be true for any other language?  Perhaps it can’t be true for an African language?

Symbol of racial identity

While it is not ideal but unfortunately it has always been and I think to deny it would be delusional. While I do not like to delve into politics too much, I think we should ask how it came about that we are dominated by English.  Why are we sold the idea of the Francophone and Anglophone countries in Africa as it Africans do not have languages of their own? How did June 16 come about? My point here is that you cannot talk about language as an isolated concept that may not involve any political, racial or cultural aspects.  At the core of one’s identity is his culture and language.

Who and where are these people that would the qualified to teach these using these indigenous concepts? So you ask.

The fact of the matter is that they would be plenty by now if the government, centres of learning and the intelligentsia of the country took African languages seriously and channelled resources to develop them in the first place.  Perhaps we wouldn’t have the hullabaloo about language policy today.  Our constitution recognises 11 languages, it’s a pity that even to this day only two are seen as more superior than the rest. Africans should not be apologetic about fighting for recognition and development of their languages in their own country and they do not need permission from anyone including yourself sir. If the academic institutions in our country do not see it fit to do something about African languages in Africa, perhaps it is time for a black man to take action. “Black man, you are on your own” Steve Biko.

Language is more importantly a tool to think and build stuff. And we have to face up to it – some tools are simple better than others.

As you put it sir, I too should like to think and build stuff in my own language. I should not be hindered by a language barrier.  Many of the young black students at varsities do not perform well compared to their peers from other races not because they are of inferior intelligence, but because of the language barrier. An African child faces a double dilemma in the South African education context, not only is he facing a problem of understanding the concept itself, he must first deal with the language issue. As if that is not enough, he has to deal with those on the other side who question his level of intellect as if they too are facing the same problems.

This laptop I am using to type this letter to you is better than the 1980 typewriter simple because it has been made that way with a lot of research and development involved. Hence any tool can be made better than the other.

If we want to publish our research in top journals, attract international academics, collaborate with the best minds both local and global, create patents from research to build mega industries, and communicate effectively in the global world of work, we will need to use the world’s most evolved and flexible language: English.

While your statement above sounds reasonable, does it prevent the Russians, Germans, Chinese, Arabs, French, Asians and many others to do what you claim just because they use mainly their own languages? Or is this only applicable to the African context?

Perhaps the Africans are to blame for allowing this to continue for all these years. Perhaps the current generation is not prepared to turn a blind eye. In South Africa the continued dominance of English will not go unchallenged in the years to come. 

Siya Weza

Disclaimer: All articles and letters published on MyNews24 have been independently written by members of News24's community. The views of users published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24. News24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received.


Read more from our Users

Submitted by
Peter Hollander
The he he he and dodging presiden...

How many times did Zuma do this he he he in Parliament and many other occasions? To do that is is blandly mocking the people. Read more...

0 comments 384 views
Submitted by
Uwe St
Hoist the SA flag as a sign of pr...

The mass hoisting of SA flags would send a strong message that South Africans don’t tolerate the state capture that we are currently experiencing. Read more...

0 comments 71 views
Submitted by
Nyiko Ashley Mabasa
Let’s protect our democracy and n...

The reality is that the downgrade happened due the reshuffling of the minister and deputy minister of finance without cogent reasons from the president. Read more...

0 comments 115 views
Submitted by
Michael Mondli Hlophe
Freedom Day: Are we free?

t has been 23 years since South Africans from all walks of life were able to cast their ballot for the National elections and it's a huge day in our history. Read more...

0 comments 319 views
Submitted by
Eric Koketso Shikobela
Freedom Day!

The first time I visited Freedom Park in 2009 , I had mixed emotions about freedom...I was disturbed by the mindset of the oppressor and inhumanity within it. Read more...

0 comments 282 views
Submitted by
Kaizer Chiefs players come under ...

George Lebese has on numerous occasions came under fire whenever Kaizer Chiefs players are being criticised for not giving it their all on the field. Read more...

0 comments 224 views


E-mail Alerts The latest headlines in your inbox

RSS feeds News delivered really simply.

Mobile News24 on your mobile or PDA

E-mail Newsletters You choose what you want

News24 on Android Get the latest from News24 on your Android device.

SMS Alerts Get breaking news stories via SMS.

TV Get us in your home, on your television.

Interactive Advertising Bureau
© 2017 All rights reserved.
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.