Diverse languages as instruments of nation building


Prelene Singh

Ubuntu Concepts, in partnership with the Nelson Mandela Foundation, Kaya FM and Brand South Africa’s Play Your Part initiative, held the second Ubuntu Sessions dialogue to create a platform for young people to engage with African leaders and change makers.



Keynote speakers of the event included Bonga “Imbongi” Siyoko, a praise singer who performs in isiXhosa; Kgosi Motshidi, a copywriter at McCann World Group; Dr Kim Wallmach, head of the Wits School of Languages; and Tebogo Ditshego, CEO of Ditshego Media.



Bob Mabena, radio guru and facilitator of the event, took the audience through the night with great insights and summaries of the role language plays in nation building.




A topic which filtered through the discussion after Wallmach spoke about translation was the notion that our children do not consider learning other people’s languages because it is not “sexy” enough or appealing to them. This results in Africans not being able to do business with themselves in any other language apart from English.





Mabena emphasised the motif that ran through the mouths of many who attended the event being that language has changed over time and constantly changes and its up to us to keep up with the changes and constantly challenge ourselves to learn the languages of our neighbours.





Another question brought up by audience members was the fact that sign language is not recognised as an official language.





The take away message from the night was knowing your culture, knowing your roots and adjusting what you know to work for you as a South African citizen. Be an active participant in communicating with your peers and have a multilingual tongue which aids you in being an integrated member of society.