Vaal University of Technology (VUT) – African Languages Development Unit Symposium
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Vaal University of Technology (VUT) – African Languages Development Unit Symposium

Prof Mbulungeni Madiba from University of Cape Town presenting his abstract

Puleng Maphisa

A conservative estimate of about five thousand languages in about two hundred countries indicates that multilingualism is a global reality. There is a great need amongst South African Universities to ensure that the Language policies developed are aligned with the National Language Policy (Act 2012) and is implementable. Often Language Policies are left in the hands of steering committees who are unable to operationalise and implement both at the institutional, faculty and individual level. It’s in the light of this that the Vaal University of Technology hosted its 2nd Annual African Languages symposium on the 15-16 May 2019 at Emerald Resort and Casino in Vanderbijlpark. The symposium was hosted under the auspices of the Centre for Academic Development and its African Languages Development Unit. The aim of the 2019 symposium was geared at bringing together the academics, practitioners and members of the public to share their experiences and challenges regarding the development of indigenous languages. The first symposium was held in 2018 which attracted around seventy-four (74) academics across all the Universities and public organizations. While the 2019 symposium attracted around 135 delegates and major keynote speakers. The 2019 theme focused on the Critical challenges on the Application of Multilingual Language Policies in Institutions of Higher Learning: Implementation Frameworks, Multilingual and its Development. The symposium had three presentation sub-themes: 1. Critical challenges, 2. Implementation framework, 3. Multilingualism and its development and implementation. The symposium was blessed by the VUT Vice Chancellor Prof Zide and prominent specialists pertaining the development of African Languages which included amongst others; Prof Sepota, Prof Madiba, Prof Madadzhe, Prof Zondi, and Dr Monareng.

The symposium took place at a time when the South African indigenous languages are in need of necessary attention after they were historically diminished and also left the minds of so many African Native Speakers colonised. Still, “there are myths developed pertaining the use of African languages which includes that; “African languages are not modern; their developments are too costly and time consuming (This involves training of teachers and material development)”. Moreover, some see “the promotion of multilingualism as a threat towards nation building.” This is supported by one of the keynote speakers Prof Madadzhe, Deputy Vice Chancellor for Teaching and Learning from the University of Limpopo who raised a concern that; large number of parents who are professionals (teachers, nurses, doctors, etc, refrain from enrolling their children where African languages are taught hence students or pupils end up taking English as a language of teaching and learning. Madadzhe also recommended that; elites, politicians and celebrities should speak African languages thus being exemplary to the rest of the country. Prof Zondi emphasized the need for South Africans to own their own poets as much as westerners own their poets. Prof Zondi citied the works of Professor Vilikazi an African black icon poet in the 1950s as a good example.

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