Is tech killing indigenous African languages? Prof. Leketi Makalela, head of Languages, Literacies and Literatures in the Wits School of Education talks back.
Discussions on the status of African languages portray a dim view. For centuries, African languages have been under threat as one conqueror after another has imposed their preferred language on various nations on the continent. Subsequently, African languages have low status in our institutions and continue to be marginalized in all spheres of power, including government quarters.
In South Africa, English continues as the lingua franca, despite government policies that protect and promote vernacular languages.
There have been warnings about the death of these languages. However, indigenous languages are far from extinct says Professor Leketi Makalela, Head of Languages, Literacies and Literatures in the Wits School of Education.
“Where government has failed, technology is bringing hope to the people,” says Makalela. “African languages were probably going to die, were it not for technology, social media and popular culture. Technology is going to take African languages forward and these languages are going to evolve to fit into the digital age and any future world shift.”
Ironically, this change is one of the major criticisms levelled against technology, and especially social media, where variations of spelling abound, and where the platforms are also implicated for contributing to the decline in literacy and writing standards.
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