Calls made to preserve indigenous languages

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Arts and Culture Deputy Minister Maggie Sotyu says the responsibility to protect and preserve indigenous languages can not be government’s alone. Sotyu was speaking in Khayelitsha at the annual commemoration of International Mother Language Day. UNESCO declared February 21st as International Mother Language Day in tribute to the Language Movement of the Bangladeshis. Sotyu says parents have a critical role to play in developing and protecting indigenous mother tongue languages.

The International Mother Language Day was proclaimed by UNESCO, in 1999, in an effort to support the use of mother tongue in education. 2019 has also been proclaimed by the United Nations as the International Year of Indigenous Languages. Sotyu says the South African government supports the promotion of indigenous languages, but says with strong input from the family.

“One of our responsibilities is to preserve languages, but we as government on our own, we’ll never be able to do that if the parents don’t spearhead that because children are staying with parents.”

The celebration has been organised in collaboration with the National Library of South Africa. Executive Director at the National Library Eddie Maepa says the culture and identity of a people could die if their language is ignored.

Maepa says it’s sad that books in other South African indigenous languages are few and hard to find.

“The output in indigenous languages is very low, because when publishers source material to publish they prefer English because it sells.”

The department says there’s a need to promote a culture of reading, writing and publishing in all local languages.