Mind your mother tongue

2017-01-29 00:01
YOUNG MINDS Teaching children in their mother tongue makes learning easier

YOUNG MINDS Teaching children in their mother tongue makes learning easier

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

The teaching of mother tongue languages in South Africa took a back seat with the advent of democracy, as many parents began sending their children to previously white schools that often taught few or no African languages.

But with an increasing number of people becoming aware of the importance of the mother tongue, South Africans are becoming more protective of this valued part of their identity.

It is therefore no longer surprising to find debates about teaching the foundation phase of grades 1 to 3 in the mother tongue as a way of preparing children to better learn English and other languages.

The Pan South African Language Board (PanSALB), a chapter 9 institution constitutionally charged with ensuring the protection of mother tongues and promoting multilingualism, has declared February 2017 to be Language Month.

South Africans are encouraged to use their mother tongues throughout this month, with policymakers leading the way as PanSALB leads the “28 days of language activism” crusade.

“As we celebrate linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism, it is important that we also reflect on the Republic’s use of all official languages and other languages as enshrined in the Constitution,” said PanSALB chief executive officer (CEO) Dr Rakwena Mpho Monareng.

It is hoped that, through this campaign, South Africans will acknowledge the importance of preserving African languages while promoting multilingualism.

The month-long celebration of languages will culminate in the commemoration of International Mother Language Day (IMLD) on February 21.

The IMLD was proclaimed by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) in November 1999 and has been celebrated as an annual event since February 2000.

According to Unesco, the overall objective of the IMLD is to “contribute to promoting global citizenship education”.

Unesco encourages countries to undertake promotional activities of mother tongue and multilingual education according to what suits that individual country.

PanSALB has organised a month-long campaign that includes five days of Dictionary Promotion Activities in Johannesburg from February 6 to 10, seven days of public hearings in Pretoria from February 13 and a public lecture and awards on February 28 to close the campaign.

The big day, February 21, will be broadcast live on public broadcaster the SABC. All these activities are running with the hashtag #SpeakItLiveIt, encouraging all to not just speak their mother tongues, but live the languages.

PanSALB holds that multilingualism is “a catalyst for a better democratic change” and that “languages used in the homes of South African citizens are a valuable resource for social cohesion and economic success of the rainbow nation”.

“Languages are the most powerful instruments of preserving and developing humanity’s tangible and intangible heritage.

"All moves to promote the dissemination of mother tongues will serve not only to encourage linguistic diversity and multilingual education, but also to develop fuller awareness of linguistic and cultural traditions throughout the world and to inspire solidarity based on understanding tolerance and dialogue,” said PanSALB CEO Monareng.

The IMLD came about as a result of a bloody fight by the youth of Bangladesh, who fought against the marginalisation of their language Bangla in 1952 and were shot and killed by police.

South Africa experienced a similar uprising in 1976, which saw scores of students being killed for demonstrating against the use of Afrikaans as a language of instruction in schools.

South Africa now recognises and uses 11 official languages: isiZulu, Setswana, siSwati, Tshivenda, Xitsonga, isiXhosa, Sepedi, Sesotho, isiNdebele, English and Afrikaans.

The country is therefore a good example of language diversity, acceptance and multilingualism and PanSALB sums this up with its “One nation many languages” tagline.

Unesco will celebrate IMLD 2017 with the theme Towards Sustainable Futures through Multilingual Education.


Do you talk to your children in your mother tongue?

SMS us 35697 using the keyword #SpeakItLiveIt and tell us what you think. Please include your name, hometown and home language. SMSes cost R1.50

Read more on:    language month

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
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 24.com 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.