Afrikaans board says English varsities elitist

“Elitist” English universities have done less to promote multilingualism than their Afrikaans counterparts, the Afrikaans Language Board (ATR) said on Monday.

The ATR was responding to Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande’s remark that the University of Stellenbosch “abuses language to exclude people”.

It said it wanted to remind Nzimande that historically Afrikaans universities, and Stellenbosch in particular, had done much “to promote multilingualism efficiently in practice”.

It said unlike English universities, Afrikaans institutions had allowed other national languages to be used on a large scale for tuition and research.

“Use is made in an exemplary manner, and without any financial support from the side of the authorities, of innovative strategies such as parallel and double medium education, as well as translation and simultaneous interpreting services.

“The same however cannot be said of the universities where English is used as the sole medium of education.

“This elitist, unilingual English academic culture not only results in the unfair exclusion of numerous formerly disadvantaged South Africans, but also causes a large degree of frustration amongst students who do not have a full command of English, dismal academic achievements and a high drop-out rate amongst undergraduate students.”

The ART called on the government to credit Afrikaans universities for their efforts and to give all universities additional funding to provide tuition in a range of languages.

The government’s recently released report on racism at universities found a lack of funding was one of the reasons why commitment to multilingualism was often merely symbolic.
- Sapa

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