Students snub African languages

Chester Makana

Chester Makana

African languages will slowly disappear if something is not done urgently to rekindle interest among the youth to take careers in the languages.

This was the warning from Professor Mbulaheni Musehane at a three-day gathering of the Tshivenda National Language Body (TNLB).

TNLB is the brainchild of the Pan South African Language Board (Pansalb), a body mandated to promote African languages in South Africa and foster multi-lingualism.

Delegates heard that there was a need to develop manuals used to train students at institutions of higher learning.

The calls come after academics raised concern that there had been no change in the syllabus used from 20 years ago, giving rise to suspicions that this was the reason students shun enrolling for African languages.

Participating experts said they had noticed a decrease in a number of students interested in languages at Unisa, University of Limpopo and University of Venda for Science and Technology, possibly because of a lack of change in the courses offered.

Experts claim manuals being used were wrongly translated by missionaries and colonialists who failed to understand African-speaking people.

Musehane proposed that manuals should be developed to promote African languages.

But others suggested that massive research should be conducted to enrich the languages with misplaced words and blamed electronic media for "poisoning" African languages.

Professor Victor Ralushai said the media is one of the "poisoning factors in the ongoing bastardisation of African languages".

He said languages on radio are not standardised and "poison" youths who rely on radio as a source of knowledge.

Julia Mathibela of Pansalb appealed to institutions of higher learning to make their courses more attractive.

She also said there was lack of education and materials in African languages to advance them to the same levels as those of developed languages.