The language of justice leaves the masses speechless
We must talk about the elephant in the trial room of Senzo Meyiwa. A pink elephant that takes up most of the courtroom.
It reminded me of a joke that said: Until you withdraw money from the ATM in your native language, you don’t have to do anything…you can fill in the rest.
Here are some examples:
…criticize parents who speak to their children in a particular language because that is the language that is used to test them in school.
…assessing a person’s proficiency in a particular skill based on their use of a particular language.
The answers are many. What language do you select at an ATM?
A colleague – whose mother tongue is Zulu and who grew up in KwaZulu-Natal in an area where her tongue and ear were so finely tuned in her first language long before she could utter her first word – shyly admitted that she didn’t make him use the king’s language at the ATM.
She said she once tried to withdraw money in isiZulu, but she ended up canceling the transaction and switched to English.
Imagine some of you switching to two or more vernaculars when conversing with family members, friends, colleagues or neighbors. And then there are those friends, neighbors or colleagues who are not speakers of a particular vernacular, but because it is the dominant language in their region, workplace or friendship circle, you forget that you share the same mother tongue and that you speak the dominant language even if it is not necessary.
Relevant conversations are taking place about mother tongues and their role in improving the quality of learning and teaching in schools.
Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga and her department are pushing ahead with plans to integrate mother tongues as languages of teaching and learning in schools. Some provincial departments of education are already running a pilot program in isiXhosa and Sesotho as languages of instruction.
We have 11 official languages. We will have 12 languages in the not so distant future once the long process of adding South African Sign Language as an official language is complete.
Conversations also move from official languages to languages of instruction and languages of teaching and learning. We can have as many official languages as our beautiful constitution allows, but if they do not find expression in languages of teaching and learning and languages of instruction, they will not develop and evolve. .
Let’s go back to the elephant in the Meyiwa trial room. The courtroom is as dark as night and the tongue as white as snow. What conversations are taking place in our justice system regarding mother tongues?
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