Multilingualism in a global village: What is the future of a local language (e.g. Northern Sotho) in an increasingly globalized world?

  • P Phaahla


South Africa is currently occupying a precarious position within a framework of globalization and internationalization where cultural and linguistic pluralism prevail. There is divergence between South Africa’s multilingual language policy on the one hand, and its language practices on the other. Although South Africa is in its 16th year of democracy, people are still grappling with issues such as the financial costs of using more than one official language in commerce and industry. It is argued that it is extremely costly to change letterheads and logos of companies in an attempt to align them with the languages of the country, a notion that does not take into cognisance the reality of South Africa as a multilingual country. The idea expressed is that using some of the 11 official languages and sign language in parallel will be contingent to practicality and expense. The purpose of this article is twofold. First, it seeks to determine whether a balance can be maintained between the global need to communicate and the need to preserve local and regional identities and cultures. Secondly, it endeavours to establish whether it is feasible in South Africa, to maintain the prospects of multilingualism on the one hand and to simultaneously promote the use of the local indigenous languages on the other, in an increasingly globalized world. A previous study, which established the feasibility of using a language of limited diffusion (e.g. Northern Sotho) as a language of commerce and industry, will be a case in point. The article will further determine the apposite environment as an enabler for employing Northern Sotho as a language of marketing, advertising and business. Language practices in the sectors of organic financial growth in South Africa are also explored.

S.Afr.J.Afr.Lang., 2010, 1

Author Biography

P Phaahla
Department of African Languages, University of South Africa, P.O. Box 392, UNISA 0003, Pretoria, South Africa

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2305-1159
print ISSN: 0257-2117