South Africa's linguistic and cultural diversity celebrated | Western Cape Government

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South Africa's linguistic and cultural diversity celebrated

25 February 2019

Celebrating South Africa’s cultural and linguistic diversity was the focus as three spheres of the nation’s government partnered to commemorate International Mother Language Day (IMLD) in Khayelitsha on Friday 22 February 2019.

IMLD was founded by the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and is celebrated annually on 21 February since its inception in the year 2000.

According to the United Nations (UN), one of our world’s languages disappears every two weeks. Ensuring that South Africa’s ten indigenous languages do not meet the same fate was at the focal point of Friday’s event, which was hosted by the national Department of Arts and Culture in collaboration with the Western Cape Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport and the National Library of South Africa.

National Deputy Minister of Arts and Culture, Makhotso Sotyu, told the assembled guests that parents had an important role to play in promoting the use of mother tongue.

“Whether you are an English-, Afrikaans-, seSotho-, isiXhosa- or isiZulu-speaking person, it is important that our children know their background and where they come from. I heard someone say that it seems as if we are not winning when it comes to the issues of indigenous languages at schools. The problem is that we can’t win without the involvement of parents,” Minister Sotyu said.

“If you as a parent don’t encourage your children, who are Afrikaans speaking, to speak Afrikaans, you are in trouble. If you are like myself, whose children are supposed to speak isiXhosa and they don’t speak isiXhosa at home, but you expect the teachers to do wonders, you are wasting your time because it must start at home. I would like to thank the Western Cape Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport and the National Library of South Africa for partnering with us to celebrate this wonderful occasion.”

The UN states that at least 43% of the world’s estimated 6 000 languages are endangered and that 40% of all people do not have access to an education in a language they speak or understand.

Western Cape Minister of Cultural Affairs Sport, Anroux Marais, said the provincial government would continue working to promote multilingualism.

“Too many people underestimate the importance of affording people the space for self-improvement through the use of their mother tongue and today we celebrate the significance of this by collaboratively engaging the youth on language issues,” Minister Marais said.

“This engagement shows that together we are committed to empowering all who call the Western Cape and the greater South Africa home by exploring our national identity while shining the spotlight on self-identity through linguistic practices.”

Friday’s event took place at the Khayelitsha Thusong Service Centre and was attended by pupils and teachers from several schools around Cape Town as well as staff and students from tertiary institutions in the Western Cape.

The event was preceded by Minister Sotyu visiting the Chris Hani Arts and Culture High School in Khayelitsha, where the school’s talented, dancers and praise singers entertained the guests.

The Western Cape Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport works to improve social cohesion by promoting the use of all official languages, BETTER TOGETHER.

Media Enquiries: 

Dr Tania Colyn
Head of Communication Service
Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport
Tel: 021 483 9877 / 076 093 4913