Government's contribution to the development of translation in South Africa (1910–1977)

  • Dominique Ngoy Mwepu French Department, School of Languages and Literatures, University of Cape Town, Private Bag, Rondebosch 7701, South Africa


The South African government has contributed tremendously to the development of translation, a contribution which is not always rightfully acknowledged or valued. The development of translation benefited significantly from the country's official bilingualism policy of 1910 which necessitated the translation of a variety of text types for all government departments. Even though such translation included a rather limited number of languages, the fact remains that the demand for translation increased significantly. Moreover, the complexity of texts to be translated required an increase in the number of skilled translators. As the government's Language Service Bureau set out to find ways of attracting translators to fulfil this task, it dicovered that being a competent translator entailed more than just bilingualism. This finding contributed to the recognition of the fact that special training was required for a person to become a translator and that translators needed to be respected as highly skilled professionals. The Bureau's failure to cope with its huge load of government work led to outsourcing translation work, and a realisation that the country needed a comprehensive strategy for translation service development. This included the introduction of translation courses or programmes at South African universities.

Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies 2008, 26(1): 87–96

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eISSN: 1727-9461
print ISSN: 1607-3614