Language can be a powerful cohesive tool

Social cohesion should unquestionably be among the matters at the top of our agenda if we are to hold together on critical national issues. And language is a critical element. We are now seeing it as a dangerous spark for intergroup conflict, but it has been festering for a long time.

Professor Vuyisile Msila wrote of using this crisis. Language can also be a driver of social cohesion. English can make it possible for all learners to learn together in multilingual classrooms from the earliest grades.

English is the one South African language that belongs to all who can use it, not to Britain or those who happen to have been born into it. Like soccer, it is a priceless piece of our horrible colonial history that we need to claim for what we can do with it.

If we can think out of the single-medium box (with its roots in colonialism and apartheid) that is stifling our education system, we can think how it would be if all learners could use both English and their particular home language in the classroom.

We have multibilingual teaching techniques to make this possible; with more research and development we could take a lead in teaching multilingual groups. Keeping schools set up for one language group, with learners coming together only at tertiary level, is doing us all a disservice. Parallel-language sessions for the “special” group, with all “the rest” using English only, cannot break down this toxic othering.

English used as a single classroom medium places all other language groups at a disadvantage and perpetuates the marginalisation of African languages. But a system that can use English as a common language in multilingual schools and institutions, while making full use of all our languages through multibilingualism, can be a powerful catalyst for social cohesion and better education.

Margie Owen-Smith manages the Home Language Project.

Advertisting

Hlophe complaint is an eerie echo

But the new complaint against the Western Cape judge president is also unprecedented

Mabuza contract grows by R10m

Eskom’s negotiators in a R100-million maintenance contract came back with a proposal to push up the costs

‘There were no marks on his neck’, Neil Aggett inquest...

The trade unionist’s partner at the time he was detained at John Vorster Square says she now believes his death was not a suicide
Advertising

Press Releases

Boosting safety for cargo and drivers

The use of a telematics system for fleet vehicles has proved to be an important tool in helping to drive down costs and improve efficiency, says MiX Telematics Africa.

Silencing the guns and firearms amnesty

Silencing the guns and firearms amnesty

Gender-based violence is an affront to our humanity

Gender-based violence is an affront to our humanity

UK-Africa investment summit 2020: Think Africa Invest SA

UK-Africa investment summit 2020: Think Africa Invest SA

MTN unveils TikTok bundles

Customised MTN TikTok data bundles are available to all prepaid customers on *136*2#.

Marketers need to reinvent themselves

Marketing is an exciting discipline, offering the perfect fit for individuals who are equally interested in business, human dynamics and strategic thinking. But the...

Upskill yourself to land your dream job in 2020

If you received admission to an IIE Higher Certificate qualification, once you have graduated, you can articulate to an IIE Diploma and then IIE Bachelor's degree at IIE Rosebank College.

South Africans unsure of what to expect in 2020

Almost half (49%) of South Africans, 15 years and older, agree or strongly agree that they view 2020 with optimism.