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Review of  Language Planning and Policy in Africa Vol 1

Reviewer: Luna Beard
Book Title: Language Planning and Policy in Africa Vol 1
Book Author: Richard B. Baldauf Jr. Robert B. Kaplan
Publisher: Multilingual Matters
Linguistic Field(s): Sociolinguistics
Issue Number: 15.3422

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Date: Tue, 07 Dec 2004 11:47:26 +0200
From: Luna Beard
Subject: Language Panning and Policy in Africa, Vol. 1: Botswana, Malawi,
Mozambique and South Africa

EDITORS: Baldauf, Richard B. Jr; Kaplan, Robert B.
TITLE: Language Panning and Policy in Africa, Vol. 1
SUBTITLE: Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique and South Africa
SERIES: Language Planning and Policy
PUBLISHER: Multilingual Matters Ltd
YEAR: 2004

Luna Beard
Department of Afroasiatic Studies, Sign Language and Language Practice,
University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa

This collection of papers focuses on the language planning and language
policy situations in four African countries that are members of the
Southern African Development Community. Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique and
South Africa share common borders, a number of African languages, as well
as a number of educational, social and economic challenges. Baldauf and
Kaplan's series overview and their introduction to common issues are
followed by a selected list of recently published further reading not
cited in the monographs that follow. This is given by country and reveals
a much larger published literature for South Africa than for the other

Contributors to this areal volume were requested to examine four topics
comprising a total of 22 related questions, namely; language profile,
language spread, language policy and planning, and language maintenance
and prospects.

Lydia Nyati-Ramahobo provides an overview of the language situation in
Botswana. All four reports are specific and informative, but this one is
particularly captivating. She (53) points out that 'Botswana's language
policy is not written; it is understood, inferred and observed from
reality' and then explains what that involves.

As far as language death and language maintenance are concerned, Nyati-
Ramahobo (57) contends that, given the circumstances and the view that
language diversity is a problem, one would not be surprised if by now all
languages in Botswana were extinct except Setswana and English. Slavery
also played a role in language shift, particularly in the way that the
Batawa tribe dictated history. Nyati-Ramahobo (31) explains that the terms
minority and majority have, by definition, no numerical significance in
Botswana. What determines whether a tribe is major or minor is whether it
belongs to one of the eight Setswana tribes and speak one of the eight
Setswana dialects. The Batawana constitute one percent of the population
yet are considered to be a majority tribe. The Batawa enslaved the Wayeyi
for over 250 years (58). Even after the abolitions of slavery worldwide,
the majority of Wayeyi still continue to be ruled by the Batawana, despite
their efforts since 1936 to achieve autonomy. As a result, the Wayeyi
suffer from low self-esteem; many would prefer not to reveal their true
identity, but rather say they are Batawana, particularly to outsiders who
have no reason to suspect anything to the contrary. While the denial
syndrome is not exclusive to the Wayeyi, the Batawana more extensively
subjected them to slavery than any other tribe. Most of the Wayeyi have
become assimilated and cannot speak (their language) Shiyeyi, while
others speak it but do not admit that they do because of the low status of
the language through its association with slavery (31). Nyati-Ramahobo (58-
67) describes the work of some groups that have begun to form
organisations to revive their language and culture.

In the next paper Edrinnie Kayambazinthu explores the historical an
political processes, as well as current practices of language planning in
Malawi. In her discussion of the spread of Chichewa and Tumbuka in Malawi,
the role of the language-in-education policy is central to the argument of
both planned and unplanned language spread. The major question
confronting language education planners in post-colonial societies such as
Malawi, is what language(s) to include in the school system. The question
in Malawi, it is pointed out (98), has often hinged on the feasibility of
English as a lingua franca for its practical usefulness for science and
technology and world civilisation, as well as the maintenance of cultural
identity and ease of communication with the people, since English remains
far removed from them. The current dominance of English in administration
and legislature means that nearly 90% of Malawians are excluded from
decisions that affect them. The dilemma surrounding the use of English
often translates into programmatic issues such as what the first medium of
communication in school should be and when the transition to English
should be made. The section on language planning also focuses on the
political philosophy, Zasintha ('things have changed') behind the current
language policy decisions in Malawi. Consultation and lobbying for
languages shaped the language policy during the colonial period.
Kayambazinthu (137) explains that the post-colonial period is, however,
marked by spontaneous planning without consultation and decisions that
are connected to the socio-economic and political environment in which
they were made. This report is concluded in the hope that the future
development of language policy in Malawi will be systematic and that
directives will be based on actual research, not on vested interest.

The aim of the paper by Armando Jorge Lopes is to provide a preliminary
survey of the language planning situation in Mozambique. Lopes (150)
admits that this project was more complex than anticipated, since
available information was widely dispersed and unsystematic, the exchange
of published ideas among researchers insufficient, and also because a
comprehensive language atlas of Mozambique is still lacking. Like most
African countries, Mozambique is a multilingual and multicultural
country. Portuguese is the official language. The indigenous Bantu
languages constitute the major language stratum, both with regard to
number of speakers and in terms of language distribution over the
territory. Lopes (159) explains that Mozambique's communication with the
outside world is carried out by means of two languages, namely, Portuguese
and English. These languages are the two official languages of the
Southern African Development Community which integrates 15 countries, but,
in practice, English has functioned as the major working language. Quite
remarkably, according to Lopes (159), French, which used to be the primary
foreign language in the colonial educational system, is now making a
comeback at the pre-university level, and could, in future, become
Mozambique's second most important foreign language.

Mozambique has a young population. Lopes (162) indicates that school age
Mozambicans (5-24 years) represent more than 50% of the country's total
population. Following the changes in overall national policies and the end
in 1992 of the 16-year war which devastated the country, the government,
with the help of the international community, has embarked on specific
rehabilitation and restructuring programmes.

The fourth and last monograph by Nkonko M. Kamwangamalu examines the
language planning situation in South Africa. He provides two reasons why
English has been accused of being double-edged sword in South Africa (and
in other former British colonies on the African continent), despite all
its positive attributes. Firstly, although it provides access to
education and job opportunities, it also acts as a barrier to such
opportunities for those who do not speak it, or whose English is poor.
Secondly, it is an important key to knowledge, science and technology, but
it is increasingly being seen as the major threat to the maintenance of
indigenous languages, as a remnant of colonialism and a cause of cultural
alienation, and as a vehicle of values not always in harmony with local
traditions and beliefs (203). Kamwangamalu (255) cites research which
indicate that most black parents consider African languages to be
irrelevant in the education process, because, unlike English- or Afrikaans-
medium education, education in an African language is not rewarding.

One of the key issues highlighted in this paper is the mismatch between
South Africa's multilingual language policy and language practices. The
section on language and religion is not convincing as a result of the
incorrect and confusing use of a term and a translation (217). Although
long sections are devoted to the past, attempts are made to view the
current situation in context and to provide a balanced perspective on some


Luna Beard is a researcher in the Department of Afroasiatic Studies, Sign
language and Language Practice at the University of the Free State in
Bloemfontein, South Africa. She works mostly in Cognitive Linguistics. As
far as microlinguistics is concerned, she enjoys syntax and phonology,
but her real linguistic passions are stylistics and textual studies. She
is in favour of interdisciplinary studies, especially those that combine
linguistics and communication studies, as well as those that focus on the
interface between linguistics and Bible studies. She taught linguistics
for 11 years at the University of the Free State and the University of
South Africa. After that she lived in Tucson, Arizona for five years where
she joined in with linguistic discussions.

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