Language Policy Execution: The Case of South African Universities

Language Policy Execution: The Case of South African Universities

Paul Hendry Nkuna
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0672-0.ch011
(Individual Chapters)
No Current Special Offers


South Africa is a multilingual country with 11 official languages. The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996, provides that every learner may use the official language of his or her choice in any public institution of the country. The Language Policy for Higher Education (Ministry of Education, 2002) requires all South African universities to develop and execute language policies. This chapter focuses on language policy execution by South African universities. The emphasis is on the execution of language policy in relation to the promotion and development of the nine official indigenous languages, namely isiNdebele, isiXhosa, isiZulu, Sepedi, Sesotho, Setswana, siSwati, Tshivenda and Xitsonga.
Chapter Preview


In South Africa we often talk as though this is the only country in the world where “a language problem existed. Yet there are nearly a hundred different parts of the world which have to face similar problem, and any study of the conditions in this countries leads us to the conclusion that the difficulty in South Africa is exaggerated” (Mckerron 1934, p. 119). Before 1994 there were widespread fears among white people in South Africa, and the University of Stellenbosch “moved swiftly and orchestrated the passing of the University of Stellenbosch (Private Act), 1992, through the last white parliament. Section 18 of this Act entrenched Afrikaans as the medium of instruction” (Verwoerd, in press, p. 17). It was 58 years after Mckerron’s (1934) publication. Four years after the promulgation of University of Stellenbosch (Private Act), 1992, the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996, was published. Subsection 29(2) of the Constitution provides the following:

Everyone has the right to receive education in the official language or languages of their choice in public educational institutions where that education is reasonably practicable. In order to ensure the effective access to, and implementation of, this right, the state must consider all reasonable educational alternatives, including single medium institutions, taking into account - (a) equity; (b) practicability; and (c) the need to redress the results of past racially discriminatory laws and practices (Parliament of South Africa, 1997, 16).

Subsections 6(1) and 6(2) recognises 11 official languages, as well as the historically diminished status and use of the country’s indigenous languages.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Progress: To develop, moving steps forward and advance.

Policy: Guidelines document.

Multilingualism: Knowledge and use of three or more languages.

Equity: Fairness in doing or executing something.

Execution: Implementation of a project such as a language policy.

Recommendation: A proposal or suggestion.

Elevation: Increasing the status of indigenous languages.

Leadership: Direction giving and guidance.

Complete Chapter List

Search this Book: