n Journal for Language Teaching = Ijenali Yekufundzisa Lulwimi = Tydskrif vir Taalonderrig - Mother-tongue education or bilingual education for South Africa : theories, pedagogies and sustainability

Volume 41, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 0259-9570



Language rights, language development and the need for a multilingual literate population in South Africa have been issues debated not only in public, but also among academics and other stakeholders in education in South Africa. There remains a need for a population proficient at least in some indigenous languages, but also able to access languages that facilitate communication beyond the confines of the nation or region. In the recent past schools and universities have responded to national imperatives to develop this capacity. They have employed a range of policy and other types of incentives aimed at increasing access to the indigenous languages of South Africa and improving the quality of education received in those languages, where sufficiently large communities exist to support mother-tongue communication and use. This article provides a different account from those already mentioned, drawing instead on theoretical developments in linguistics to illustrate a number of points concerning the relationship between theory, approaches and contexts in language development in South Africa. The article addresses the educational imperatives in relation to theoretical, socio-geographic, and socio-economic contingencies that affect their sustainability.

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