International Journal of Humanities and Social Science

ISSN 2220-8488 (Print), 2221-0989 (Online) 10.30845/ijhss

Mother Tongue Debate and Language Policy in South Africa
Dr. Baba P. Tshotsho

This paper evaluates the current mother tongue debates and the South African Language Policy. The aim of the policy is to redress the injustices of Apartheid where English and Afrikaans were given a higher status at the expense of other languages. Prior to 1994 English and Afrikaans were used as official languages throughout South Africa. Only students whose mother tongue was English or Afrikaans were at an advantage. The majority of South Africans speak an African language as a home language. The rest of the population speaks other indigenous languages (National Department of Education, 1992). All that changed after 1994 when 11 languages were declared official languages and given the same status. This was a way of promoting African languages which were neglected in the past. Provinces were free to choose which of the official languages to declare an official languages at regional level (Barkhuizen and Gough, 1996). The vision of the African National Congress (ANC) government of promoting all 11 languages is just a symbolic gesture and is likely to remain so in the forseeable future. The South African government has not yet provided the human resources and physical resources needed to promote multilingualism. Practically speaking, English and Afrikaans still have a higher status than other languages. The value attached to these languages even by blacks themselves, undermines the survival of African Languages. The result is that many black South Africans make English their language of choice as a medium of instruction (cf. Dyers 2001; De Klerk 2000 and Banda, 2004). This makes prospects for an African language as an alternative medium of instruction at tertiary institutions appear very bleak, at least in the foreseeable future. This paper argues that mother tongue education be considered in South Africa if we hope to get good grades from students who come from rural schools

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