Pan South African Language Board

The Pan South African Language Board (PanSALB) promotes multilingualism in South Africa by fostering the development of all 11 official languages, while encouraging the use of the many other languages spoken in the country.

Linguistic human rights and advocacy

PanSALB is mandated by law to investigate complaints about language rights violations from any individual, organisation or institution.

PanSALB conducts hearings at which complainants and respondents are present, and depending on its findings may recommend steps to be taken by the department or institution concerned.

In May 2004, PanSALB launched a campaign to raise the public’s awareness of their right to be served in their own language at government institutions.

Speaking at the launch of the campaign in Pretoria, PanSALB chief executive Cynthia Marivate said the public should complain to PanSALB if public servants refused to serve them in their language.

“This is not only limited to written information”, Marivate said. “Even verbal information should be communicated through the language citizens best understand.”

She said it was the responsibility of government to get interpreters of all official languages at its key delivery service points.

Language policy and law

PanSALB worked closely with the Department of Arts and Culture on its national policy for language use in government in higher education, launched in 2003, as well as on the South African Languages Bill and a number of initiatives to ensure that South Africa has the human resources needed to implement the Bill when it becomes law.

These initiatives, announced in March 2004, include a government bursary scheme for postgraduate studies in language, interpreting and translation, and the setting up of language research and development centres to focus on nine of SA’s 11 indigenous languages: seSotho sa Lebowa, seSotho, seTswana, siSwati, Tshivenda, Xitsonga, isiNdebele, isiXhosa and isiZulu.

Lexicography and terminology development

Another of PanSALB’s focus areas is that of lexicography and terminology development.

Nine National Lexicography Units were registered in 2001, their task being to compile monolingual explanatory dictionaries and other products to help with language development.

The Afrikaans, English, isiZulu, and isiXhosa units have published a number of volumes of their monolingual dictionaries.

The Tshivenda Lexicography Unit, based at the University of Venda, launched the world’s first Tshivenda dictionary in July 2004, and said it expected to publish the final draft in 2006 or 2007.

The lexicography units are based at tertiary institutions throughout South Africa. Each unit is managed by a board of directors and registered as a Section 21 (not-for-profit) company, which allows the unit autonomy to raise funds to carry on its work.

Electronic translation

PanSALB has also established an electronic translation programme in conjunction with Afrilingo, a company that has translated English computer programmes into isiZulu, isiXhosa, seTswana, Sesotho and Afrikaans.

Afrilingo marketing and programme developer Thami Olivier said in May 2004 that the programme had been introduced at the Motheo and Mangaung district municipalities in the Free State, and that Afrilingo was working on translations into the five other South African languages.

“By typing a word, you will get its translation in your preferred language, and when you click the volume icon box you will hear how it is pronounced”, Olivier said.

“Our aim is to break down language barriers”, he said, adding that copies of the programme had been distributed to South Africa’s embassies in the United States.

“This helps tourists to know the basics of language before they arrive in South Africa.”

Khoi and San National Language Body

This body was established in 1999 to promote and develop the Khoi and San languages. The body has been conducting surveys in communities where the Khoi and San languages are spoken, in order to record and standardise terminology.

The Khoi and San languages were spoken by the earlier inhabitants of the southern part of Africa.

Commission for the Promotion and Protection of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities

The commission’s main purpose is to promote respect for the rights and interests of South Africa’s various cultural, religious and linguistic communities.

The 17-member commission has the power to:

    • Monitor, investigate, research, educate, lobby, advise and report on any issue concerning the rights of cultural, religious and linguistic communities.
    • Facilitate the resolution of conflicts or friction between any such community and an organ of state.
    • Receive and deal with complaints and requests by cultural, religious or linguistic communities.

Convene a yearly national conference of delegates from the various religious, cultural and linguistic communities and governmental and non-governmental role players.

SAinfo reporter

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