Peer review of paper number 114
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A fascinating paper, as it vividly describes the dilemma we are faced with - how to pay more than lip service to our constitution's recognition of the majority of South African languages and simultaneously move away from language as a ghetto. Personally I used to be somewhat alienated from the language issue as my mother tongue is Afrikaans and I opted for different priorities (for historical reasons) than to enlist on the side of either Danie Goosen or Dan Roodt (for ideological reasons) in a new "taalstryd". Gerrit Brand, who is doing research on the issue in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Stellenbosch, is in the process of persuading me that one can be both: pro "we are the same" (Tshwane's new motto), and for different languages. He argues as follows: Taking article 6 of the Constitution seriously is equally important as the fight against poverty and crime. With English as the medium of "in-betweenity" we are deceiving ourselves. If Zulu, Xhosa, and Venda are marginalized, a limit is placed on what different traditions can contribute to the in-between. The other whom you meet there is a distilled other, a front. You have already sifted out the uncomfortable elements even before the process of confrontation and exchange has started. Those who are negatively affected by having trouble with English are the majority. It is also the poorest and most marginalized, those whose potential contribution is still, as has always been the case, disqualified even before the start of the game. If they should decide to protest, nobody would listen, as long as they speak a lingua non grata. The promotion of multi-linguality in public life will empower all South Africans to enter the in-between. It will not work to try and create an in-between according to the model of the Enlightenment: all first have to shed their particular baggage before entering a neutral space where they negotiate a new order. Such negotiation is easy, because those who qualify are "the same" in the bad sense of the word. Worse, the "in-between" is sponsored by Anglo American. So far Gerrit Brand, as translated-paraphrased by me from an e-mail message, with his permission. I would have liked to see more extracts with the opinions of Xhosa speakers on the issue. Apparently research supports the view that the majority of South Africans from all "races" and languages would prefer mother tongue education and public service in their home languages. One small editing error that I have picked up: "This can be a devastating ..." must go without the "a". Murray Hofmeyr email@example.com
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