DCAS promotes multilingualism for social inclusivity in the Western Cape
At the Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport (DCAS) we are committed to ensuring the equal treatment of the provincial official languages: Afrikaans, English and isiXhosa and in promoting previously marginalised languages, including South African Sign Language. Our Department has made significant strides to create an enabling environment in which multilingualism can flourish in the province.
Often, we underestimate the vital importance of affording the space for self-actualisation in one’s mother tongue and at the DCAS we officially acknowledge this by regularly highlighting language issues through consultative engagements and activities to provide constructive, and more importantly, objective outcomes for meaningful social inclusivity to come into fruition.
Further motivated by the 2021 International Mother Language Day theme: Safeguarding Linguistic Diversity and Multilingualism, the DCAS, together with our valued stakeholders, has an impressive track record of our commitment to empowering all who call the Western Cape home by exploring our national identity through accessible language practices which has proven more beneficial to our vision of a socially inclusive, connected and active Western Cape.
Guided by the Western Cape Language Policy, the only provincial one of its kind nationally, the Department’s Language Services strive to ensure that residents of the Western Cape have access to services in the official language of their choice and provides practical language support services, including translation, proofreading, interpreting and terminology development.
Mindful of the linguistic diversity of the province with many cultures, languages and heritages, we are firm in our resolve to promote social inclusivity and have and will continue to make concerted effort to understand each other’s cultures, aspirations, ways of knowing and means of expression through multilingualism to increase the much-needed sense of belonging in the Western Cape.
To promote meaningful social inclusivity through sport, language was cited as the major tool to facilitate the programme to make it accessible to all. It has long been reported by prominent linguistics scholars that people feel more comfortable in learning in a language they best understand. Manuals and rules of most sport codes in South Africa are only available in English and Afrikaans. Very little sport literature is known to have been published in any of the African languages of the country. Translating the existing manuals became the department’s first port of call to increase access and ultimately, participation in sport and we then prioritised publishing sport rulebooks in all three official languages so that all language communities can find it easy to learn different codes of sport and in that way, literally equalising the playing field.
The very first DCAS isiXhosa chess book was launched in July 2015. After months of consultative deliberation and once granted the required approvals from linguistic authorities, we launched the world’s first isiXhosa Cricket Rulebook in October 2018 and in commemoration of International Mother Language Day this year, we also launched the first of its kind isiXhosa Netball Rulebook on 21 February 2021.
In September 2015, the DCAS launched the trilingual terminology booklet, a crucial step in the ongoing development of the province’s three official languages. The booklet, also a first of its kind, comprises new official words for use in the language of government in the Western Cape, and standardizes terms across the three languages. This is an important contribution to our provincial language heritage, inculcating a sense of belonging as well as purpose.
Not only has this process shown in real terms what can be achieved if we all work together to promote multilingualism, it was also a progressive technical exercise for the isiXhosa language. It contributed towards the development of the language as new terminology was coined in the process and therefore is tangible proof that all three official languages of the province, with the necessary efforts and resources, can be used in any and all domains. This long-term project has indeed illustrated that when we collaboratively work together, we can accelerate our agenda for the promotion of multilingualism and social inclusivity in the province.
The DCAS also has proactive services available to ease communication between the hearing public and the deaf community. We are proud to announce that our departmental Language Services Unit provides transversal language support services, including SASL interpreting to deaf officials in the employment of the Western Cape Government. The Department, in consultation with organisations representing interests of deaf communities in the province, has created a credible database of professionally trained SASL interpreters available to the public to create an enabling environment, which is linguistically inclusive.
Minister Marais said, “We encourage all institutions, organisations and individuals to join us on this nation building exercise and trust that the practical implementation of the Western Cape Language Policy will serve as motivational inspiration to promote multilingualism in which all three official languages receive equal treatment. To forge a common path together, united in our diversity, instead of imposing language practices that excludes particular language communities, together with our partners in linguistic democracy, we will continue to promote multilingualism to meaningfully redress linguistic imbalances and to develop previously marginalised languages to catalyse the social inclusivity of all. We look forward to further engaging all interested parties on how to improve this priority”.
Spokesperson for the Minister of Cultural Affairs and Sport, Anroux Marais
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