"The whole movement of life is learning" (Krishnamurti). "To be an act of knowing, then, the adult literacy process must engage the learners in the constant problematizing of their existential situations" (Freire). "Once you learn to read, you will be forever free" (Douglass). "I can learn anything I have the desire to learn" (White, S.G.).

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Language rights in South Africa

"In South Africa where the struggle for language rights was intrinsically bound up with the struggle for human rights, I could not but be aware that language is fundamentally tied to questions of power". This seems like a quite obvious statement, not only in South Africa, but globally (somewhat). In South Africa though, if English and Afrikaans were the Official Languages of South Africa, and Afrikaans was seen  as a language of apartheid and oppression....what's wrong with South Africans speaking English? I understand that there are now 11 African languages that are officially recognized, but if English is/was an official language in South Africa that didn't align itself with Apartheid, why does Access to the English language have to be "tempered". I'm definitely not an expert, in fact this Janks article was the first that I've read about these language struggles, however it seems that this article is being somewhat unfair to the English language.


  1. Seth posted an awesome comment on Greg's blog that says things better than I could!

    It is easy to say "English is the language of the South African government" but even that is elitist because those are the people in power. They are making the decisions. Of course they are going to choose their dominant language, knowing it will force out others that do not speak multiple languages.

  2. And, to extend Seth and Melissa's points, Lauren, Janks does support English learning. But she does so from a position of awareness of the potential harm it can do, for example by holding some children back academically, or by polarizing families across generations. These are REAL risks. What Janks is trying to come to terms with is--how to empower her students with English while also recognizing and affirming the value of their own culture and language. Diversity protection might seem like a minor thing-- or merely a trade-off-- to some, but for those who have had their linguistic roots erased, it can discursively position them as linguistic outsiders for their entire lives. Here's a slightly dated national Geographic piece on language extinctions, fyi:


Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts on this post. Diverse opinions are welcomed.