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Promote and safeguard local languages - Van der Westhuisen

NNASARETHA KGAMANYANE
Van der Westhuisen
Batswana should promote and safeguard local languages to avoid the risk of them disappearing, says Assistant Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Frans Van der Westhuisen.

He said this during the commemoration of the National Languages Day commemoration held in Middlepits last week. “Experts have advised that languages face the risk of disappearing should nothing be done to promote and safeguard them. The commemoration of the National Languages Day therefore is indicative of Government commitment to ensure that local languages do not disappear from our cultural heritage,” said Van der Westhuisen.

He also said the National Policy on Culture identified the preservation and promotion of languages as a vehicle for cultural expression, adding that Vision 2016 also encouraged Batswana to uphold the spirit of unity, tolerance and respect through the appreciation of each other’s languages and culture. He added that this was in line with UNESCO’s goal of adopting sustainable national language policies to achieve linguistic diversity and multilingualism.

Van der Westhuisen also said it was that spirit the Government recognised that local or community languages needed to be developed to enhance cultural identity and social cohesion. He further said the theme for the National Languages Day 2015, ‘My language, My pride’, inculcated a sense of pride in everybody, regardless of which language they spoke.  “I am informed that there are about six major languages spoken in this area

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being Sengologa, Setlharo, Seherero, Sesarwa, Sekgothu and Afrikaans. I believe that these languages may also be spoken in other parts of Botswana particularly across the Kgalagadi and the Ghanzi districts enabling us to interact with other Batswana from those areas,” he said.

Van der Westhuisen further said language research and development was critical for young nations such as Botswana. He urged educationists, publishing houses and researchers, to help in the promotion and use of local languages. He said through research and documentation a lot could be achieved in terms of growth and sustenance of our various community and national languages.  He also said it was imperative to write and produce dictionaries, orthographies, music and other types of formats that would promote, and share local languages with the rest of the world. 

Van der Westhuisen noted that his ministry supported various activities of cultural organisations aimed at promoting local languages. He encouraged communities to form cultural organisations aimed at promoting their culture and language. The United Nations General Assembly launched the International Year of Languages, under the auspices of UNESCO, in 2008.

On February 21, 2009, Botswana adopted it as National Languages Day. The first commemoration was held in Molepolole in 2010.



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