Mogoeng calls on state to invest in indigenous tongues

Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng spoke at Indigenous Languages for Advancement launch.
Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng spoke at Indigenous Languages for Advancement launch.
Image: ANTONIO MUCHAVE

The government has to take a lead in the development of indigenous languages by allocating funds and other resources to preserve the use of mother tongue in society.

This is according to chief justice Mogoeng Mogoeng who spoke at the launch of Indigenous Languages For Advancement (Ilifa) on Friday.

Ilifa was established by legendary actor Kid Sithole in December to preserve indigenous languages and promote their use in all spaces of society.

Mogoeng said there was a lot to learn from the previous government in how it invested in the development of Afrikaans so that it could be used in science and all forms of communication.

"The fact that it was misused is neither here nor there. The big question is how did it get developed? It was the state that assumed its responsibility at the time because the Afrikaans people felt at the time that English was given preeminence over their language. They then took it upon themselves to develop their language. They invested a lot of money and expertise on the progressive development of the Afrikaans language.

"It is going to take the state upon which the constitutional responsibility of developing indigenous languages rest to do something about this matter. The state must be deliberate in the development of indigenous languages," Mogoeng said.

Ilifa was launched on Friday at the University of Johannesburg to coincide with International Day for Mother Tongue, celebrated globally.

Mogoeng told thousands of people who gathered that indigenous languages should not be seen as working against speaking English.

"A passion for your mother tongue does not mean you must do away with English. It would be foolish to do so. What it means is that don't delegitimise your identity and your language, embrace yourself. You can be proficient in English while you are proficient in your mother tongue. It is the change of mindset that we are talking about," he said.

He added that the promotion of indigenous languages should not be seen as a threat to national unity.

"What divides us is the failure to embrace who we are, perpetual economic disadvantages and looking down upon what is African. Nobody will unite with you out of respect so long as you look down upon yourself. If you really want to make sure that people go no far, take away their language and culture," he said.

Ilifa has already partnered with the University of Johannesburg, University of South Africa and Puku, a publishing company which produces children's books in indigenous languages for its course.

Over the next few weeks, these partners will develop a programme of action which will be presented to the public at the end of March.

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