Translation in South Africa: the politics of transmission1

  • Anne-Marie Beukes Department of Linguistics and Literary Theory, University of Johannesburg, PO Box 524, Auckland Park 2006


This article investigates interlingual mediation, i.e. translation and interpreting as a macro-level language-planning goal in contemporary South Africa. The focus of the article is the political dimensions of translation as social practice. The study argues that, in addition to being a pivotal language facilitation tool, translation should also be valued and utilised as a language development tool and as a tool for creating ‘discursive space' for indigenous (minority) languages. Translation policy as captured in language legislation (e.g. the Constitution and the Pan South African Language Board Act, 1995) and policy statements by Government (e.g. the Minister of Arts and Culture's National Language Policy Framework, 2003) are analysed and a brief overview of current translation infrastructure at provincial and local government level is discussed. The study argues that the politics of transmission in post-apartheid South Africa have failed the nation-building project. Government's language-planning agencies have failed to establish routinised translation practices and have thus failed to foster a culture of translation. As a result, translation's pivotal developmental function has been neglected, which has contributed to the shrinking socio-cultural domains in which indigenous languages are used.

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1727-9461
print ISSN: 1607-3614