AfriForum says Census 2022 findings emphasise Government’s fatal language flaws

The findings of the Census 2022 report prove that the government’s approach to language is seriously flawed. This is AfriForum’s response to figures on languages used in households included in this report, which has just been published.

In the section with statistics on languages most often spoken at home, it is stated that Afrikaans is still the third most-used language in the country, with Zulu in first place and Xhosa second. English, which was ranked fourth in the census of 2011, has fallen back to the fifth position in the 2022 Census, with Sepedi now being the fourth largest home language.

According to Alana Bailey, AfriForum’s Head of Cultural Affairs, this proves once again that English is a useful common language, but that it can neither be understood nor used fluently by everyone.

“People will always be able to maintain themselves best in their home language. As with the proposed Bela Bill, an attempt is being made by the ANC to convince parents and children that English is the best language choice for learning and tuition. The damage this does to South Africans’ development in various areas is being disregarded. The impact extends from the problems people experience with the internalisation of abstract concepts in subjects such as Mathematics, to generational gaps between them, their parents and grandparents, as well as with the development of their self-image.”

Bailey believes that the government and language organisations such as the Pan-South African Language Board must study the figures in depth and ensure that the offer of mother-language is increased in all educational institutions. Furthermore, government departments and other state-supported organisations must ensure that they can provide service in all official languages, not just in bad English as is the case currently. She adds that the anglicisation of the civil service makes a tragic mockery of its Batho Pele principles. “People are misunderstood or exploited by corrupt opportunists because they cannot understand what officials are telling them. This applies especially to the most defenceless members of society who cannot afford access to good education or help from, for example, legal representatives.”

“By prioritizing languages provincially according to use, using technology to make information available electronically in multiple languages and properly training and accrediting interpreters, at least twelve languages can be accommodated effectively and affordably. International examples exist that can help to achieve these goals. Unfortunately, the political will to do so is lacking, with the result that the population’s average literacy rate is dropping, the country is declining economically, and people are being plunged into misery due to poor service delivery,” Bailey concludes.

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