Challenges and opportunities/possibilities of implementing the Western Cape language policy
Nel, Jo-Mari Anne
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The principle aim of this thesis is to investigate all the challenges and opportunities/possibilities involved in realising the implementation of the official Western Cape Language Policy (finalised in 2002). These challenges and opportunities/possibilities were investigated within various structures of the Western Cape Province of South Africa’s civil service environment in six major multilingual towns in the Western Cape. The historical and political context leading to the creation of this policy is provided in the following three paragraphs. Following the demise of Apartheid with South Africa’s first democratic elections in 1994, the New South Africa brought with it amongst other things the following changes: a new Constitution; new legislation; access and freedom within a system of inclusion; the creation of new provinces; the constitutional breakdown of social, geographical and linguistic barriers; the subsequent migration to different towns and cities of people speaking different languages and their integration there; the creation of district and regional municipalities; freedom of the press. All of these introduced a whole new platform of language interaction and association and therefore general communication (Constitution of the RSA, 1996). In addition, in contrast to the Apartheid policy of only two official languages – English and Afrikaans – eleven languages were declared official languages of the state. The declaration of 11 official languages in 1996 (English, Afrikaans, isiZulu, isiXhosa, Sesotho, Sepedi, Setswana, Tshivenda, isiNdebele, siSwati and Xitsonga) was an integral part of highlighting multilingualism in the newly designated nine provinces of SA. Each of the nine provinces – the Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Northern Cape, Gauteng, the Northwest Province, Northern Province (now called Limpopo), Mpumalanga, the Free State and Kwazulu-Natal - had to, in consultation with different provincial stakeholders, draft language policies according to the National Language Framework. In the Western Cape Province, three languages were identified as dominant, namely Afrikaans, isiXhosa and English. The Western Cape Language Policy (WCLP) was consequently drafted by the Western Cape Language Committee (WCLC), a statutory body and a sub-committee of the Pan South African Language Board (PanSALB), after the Westen Cape Provincial Languages Act, Act 31 of 1998, was accepted by Parliament in 1998. This WCLP was the first provincial language policy to be completed in the New SA. The policy was accepted and the draft was ready for implementation by 2002. This thesis presents a critical overview of previous and current strategies being used by all provincial government departments in the implementation of the WCLP. This includes a sample of general public knowledge of the existence of the terms and meaning of the WCLP, different outcomes of studies and language-related projects done by the WCLC, PanSALB, DCAS and the Central Language Unit (CLU) since 2000. It also focuses on the role that different private and public language implementation agencies are playing, or not, in their communication with the multilingual civil society of the Western Cape. Projections for and challenges facing the implementation of the WCLP since its acceptance in the Western Cape Provincial Parliament (WCPP) in 2004 were also researched carefully, together with an analysis of research already conducted on behalf of the provincial government. Document analysis therefore forms a core part of this methodology, together with fieldwork research conducted in six selected major multilingual towns of the Western Cape. This was done in order to explore the challenges experienced by Afrikaans-, isiXhosa- and English-speaking people at grassroots level, since they needed to become more aware of their language rights as set out in the WCLP. Drawing on a theoretical and conceptual framework based on studies in Language and Power Relations, specifically studies on the role of Language Ideologies, Linguistic Citizenship, Agency and Voice and Language Ecology on effective Language Planning, Policy and Implementation, the thesis presents, through its document analysis, quantitative and qualitative data, an analysis of the limited or failed implementation of the WCLP in both government departments as well as the civilian populations in six selected multilingual towns of the Western Cape. This was achieved by examining actual language practices at particular language policy implementation agencies such as the post office, the police station, the high school, households, the municipal office, the day hospital and the clinic in each of these towns. The thesis gathers together all this evidence to prove that the implementation of the WCLP has been hampered by a range of factors such as wide-spread ignorance of the policy, the dominance of particular languages in the province over others, power relations within government structures and relatively inflexible language ideologies held by those charged with policy implementation at different levels. It concludes by providing a number of practical recommendations on how more effective implementation can be achieved.
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