Africans urged to promote indigenous languages

Gaborone – Africans have been urged to promote and preserve indigenous languages. The call was made by Professor Lazarus Miti of the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA. According to Miti promotion of indigenous languages could help in uniting Africans. “The use of indigenous languages has several benefits. While recognising the role of official languages such as English, French and Portuguese, OSISA believes that the indigenous languages of Africa are important for the social, political and economic development of the majority of the African people,” he said. Speaking in Gaborone, Miti said people whose language rights are violated cannot truly enjoy any of their human rights. He said OSISA’s mission is to promote and sustain the ideals, values, institutions and practice of open society. “Our organisation’s vision is of a vibrant Southern African society in which people are free from material and other deprivation, understand their rights and responsibilities and participate democratically in all the spheres of life,” he said Miti said that OSISA works along six strategic thematic areas, which include two building block programmes of Education and Information as well as Communication Technologies (ICTs), two frontline rights programme of Human Rights and Democracy building and Media, two public policy programmes of Economic Justice and HIV/AIDS. “language rights, gender and womens rights advocacy are cross-cutting themes in all of OSISAs works. Although the Language Rights in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights calls for Right to Education, it is important to know the language that will be used for teaching the learners,” he said. Miti said his organisation’s desire is for the learners to be taught in the language they understand and introduce other languages at upper levels. “as people have a right to health that means that information on good health practices should be given in the languages that people understand and prefer,” he said. Miti said some people do not follow prescriptions due to language barrier. “The Right to a Fair Trial calls for court interpreters who are well trained and speak familiar languages to the parties involved. There are a lot of areas where people are excluded because of the language used such as national budget which is usually delivered in English, French or Portuguese,” he said. He expressed concern that comments on budget are still in these languages and media also report in those languages, which leave out all the people who are not familiar with the languages. “Reliance on foreign languages slows down development, for no nation or country has developed through the use of a foreign language,” said Miti.

March 2010
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