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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

On-line version ISSN 2224-7912
Print version ISSN 0041-4751

Abstract

VAN DER WALT, Hannes  and  STEYN, Hennie. Afrikaans as language of teaching and learning in schools: A "new" approach to an "old" problem. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2016, vol.56, n.4-1, pp.1034-1047. ISSN 2224-7912.  http://dx.doi.org/10.17159/2224-7912/2016/v56n4-1a10.

Several authors have recently come to the conclusion that the linguistic human rights approach that has so far been followed in South Africa has largely failed. English has become the dominant language in all spheres of life despite the fact that the South African Constitution recognises 11 languages as having official status. Afrikaans, as the language of one of the minority groups in the country, has so far not enjoyed the same status as English and it is unlikely that it ever will, in view of the recognition which English enjoys as an international language of trade and commerce. Although the South African Constitution provides all the means required to entrench and promote Afrikaans (as well as the other 10 languages) and the rights of their speakers, there seems to be no political will to do so. In view of this, another strategy should be considered to improve the status of Afrikaans as an official language and also as a language of learning and teaching (LOLT) in schools and universities. To do this, the linguistic human rights approach should be relinquished in favour of a linguistic civil rights approach. This is an approach that embodies strategic actions and steps taken at ground level, in their everyday lives, by members of the Afrikaans community for the purpose of promoting the status of Afrikaans in South Africa, particularly as LOLT in schools and other institutions of learning. A linguistic civil rights approach utilises the space offered by the statutory fundamental human rights framework of the country for its strategy, but deviates from a linguistic human rights approach in that it does not look to the government to promote the status of the minority languages, but looks to the community in question (in this case, the Afrikaans community) to take up cudgels for Afrikaans, particularly as LOLT in schools and universities. Put differently, it uses the existing statutory framework as the space within which to work towards the retention and the promotion of Afrikaans as an official language and as LOLT in schools and universities. The purpose of this article is to outline a strategic plan that could be considered for a linguistic civil rights approach. It outlines the plan in terms of the heuristic lens of the cultural-historical activity theory, which revolves around elements that could be construed as strategic steps in the execution of the plan. It portrays a linguistic civil rights strategic plan as an activity consisting of a subject (those envisaged to execute the plan, e.g. leaders in the Afrikaans language community), the object (the problem with which they have to deal, as outlined above, and the challenges associated with the problem), the mediating artefacts that they have at their disposal (such as the social media and the statutory framework), the community or communities involved in the execution of the strategy, the division of labour in the Afrikaans community, the rules that all involved have to follow in executing the plan, and the expected outcomes or result of the plan (the recognition of Afrikaans as an official language of South Africa, growth in the number of Afrikaans schools, and Afrikaans as LOLT wherever this is possible and viable). Execution of this plan requires the mobilisation of the entire Afrikaans community in South Africa. A strategic plan in accordance with the basic tenets of the cultural-historical activity theory implies that the Afrikaans community in future will have to rely less on the national and provincial governments to reinforce the position of Afrikaans as an official language and as LOLT. Members of that community will have to contribute "from the side" and at ground level to promote the status of their language, among others by insisting that their local school retains Afrikaans as LOLT. The execution of this plan is not a simple linear procedure; there are many factors at play in this complex process in which the subjects (the various role players seeking to advance the status of Afrikaans) are often not in control of all the variables and occasionally not even aware of them. Despite all these difficulties, the Afrikaans (-speaking) community in South Africa should do everything in its power to work towards the future existence of Afrikaans schools, schools that insist on offering Afrikaans as a school subject, and schools that prefer Afrikaans as LOLT. If effectively executed, this plan will contribute to the well-being of all in South Africa. Members of the other minorities could then consider a similar plan for enhancing the status of their languages.

Keywords : linguistic rights; human rights; linguistic citizenship; Afrikaans; language of teaching and learning; cultural-historical activity theory; minority languages.

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