Conference seeks ways to improve indigenous languages

Nathi Mthethwa
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Mobilising resources to develop indigenous languages. This was the main focus of a two-day  government-led conference looking at the enhancement of mother tongue language in the country.

Unesco declared 2019 the year of indigenous languages.

“All languages are valuable. No language is better. There are languages that have been supported more than others, but there is no language that does not have capacity and capability of performing in modern society,” says Chair Of Africology, Professor Molefi Asante.

Despite 11 official languages and policies that preserve indigenous languages, promoting these is still a struggle.

“It’s decolonising our minds because we are obsessing still with English, which is a global language and very important language, but my argument would be to find ways where we create spaces for other languages, so we can use them effectively as cognitive tools,” says Professor of African languages at Rhodes University, Russel Kaschula.

The concept of decolonising the mind has been welcomed as a step in the right direction, but it seems there’s more that needs to be done.

The two-day conference aims to find practical solutions.

“We need more forums like this where we engage everybody and we come together and exchange knowledge and how languages cross-pollinate,” says Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture Nathi Mthethwa.

The ultimate goal is to create a space where all eleven official languages are able to thrive in school and business environment effectively. But the implementation of the goal is yet to be outlined.