African languages must not be allowed to die

Identity debates are not for the fainthearted. They are emotionally charged affairs. It is no wonder the government had to dispatch two senior ministers to calm the political strife in KwaZulu-Natal over name changes.

Identity debates are not for the fainthearted. They are emotionally charged affairs. It is no wonder the government had to dispatch two senior ministers to calm the political strife in KwaZulu-Natal over name changes.

I wish the same passion could be demonstrated in reviving African languages. The African language issue in post-apartheid South Africa is a sad one.

African languages are our heritage and must be preserved. Our languages are orphans in the country of their birth. This is reflected in the slow death of African literature. It is sad that a country that is 80 percent African - 23,8 percent speak isiZulu, 17,6 percent isiXhosa, 9,4 percent Sesotho and 8,2 percent Setswana - has no indigenous writings in book stores. Can you imagine an England where Shakespeare is an outcast?

Indigenous literature is the only way to safeguard our languages from disappearing. Languages should adapt to the modern era but it does not mean that English and globalisation should kill African languages.

Preserving indigenous languages and literature must be a priority. The extinction of the Xam language must be a lesson to us all. Tomorrow it may be isiXhosa or isiNdebele.

The department of arts and culture, publishers, book stores and indigenous African writers have a responsibility to stop this from happening.

Lucas Ntyintyane,

Johannesburg

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