Journal for Language Teaching

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Mother-tongue education or bilingual education for South Africa: theories, pedagogies and sustainability

RJ Balfour


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

Journal for Language Teaching vol Vol. 41 (2) 2007: pp.1-16
AJOL African Journals Online