Obstacles to post-apartheid language policy implementation: Insights from language policy experts

  • Zethu Cakata
  • Puleng Segalo


As widely reported, colonialism and apartheid played a key role in creating an official space that inferiorised indigenous languages through policies that promoted languages that aided the oppression. Such an exercise has had multifold implications for black South African communities that include negative perceptions toward indigenous languages, coupled with the desire to master languages of oppression, not only to access the official world (thus economic advancement), but also to disassociate with languages that affirm their status as sub-human (a colonially ingrained belief). Despite efforts by the democratic government to redress the colonial ills, evidence shows that the elevation of indigenous languages remains in its infancy. In this paper, we explore factors that may have prevented the success of government efforts by analysing in-depth interviews with five key policy informants. The findings show that the democratic tone of language policies which suggests practicality and choice rather than enforcement, the acceptance of the English language as the official policy language, and government’s move to reform rather than deconstruct apartheid language policies are key obstacles to policy implementation. Stephen Biko’s decolonial concept of inward-looking worked as a framework through which these obstacles were interrogated.


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1727-9461
print ISSN: 1607-3614