Address by Minister of Arts and Culture, Paul Mashatile, on occasion of tabling of the Language Practitioners’ Bill before the National Assembly

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24 Oct 2013

Ohloniphekile uSomlomo, nesekela lakhe

Honourable Ministers here present

Honourable Members

Manene nani Manenekazi:

On the 7th of August last year, I stood before this House to table for consideration the Use of Official Languages Bill.

On that day we said we are taking a major step in promoting multilingualism in our country.

We said were also taking yet another step in building a South Africa that truly belongs to all who live in it; black and white united in our diversity.

Today, Honourable Members, as I table the Language Practitioners’ Bill, I do so in order to take forward the work we are doing to promote the wide spread use of all official languages.

Once again we are delighted that the Bill we are tabling is a product of popular participation and wide spread consensus among various stakeholders.      

By tabling this Bill we are, as directed by the Constitution of our country, taking another forward step in ensuring that all our official languages enjoy parity of esteem.

We are also honouring and protecting the language rights of South Africans.

In particular through the Bill we are ensuring that there is proper regulation of the language profession and thus addressing some of the challenges facing the profession.

The challenges we are addressing through this Bill include the vulnerability to exploitation by many language practitioners, the lack of clear and predictable standards for the language profession and lack of protection to members of the public who may be prejudiced by the services rendered by language practitioners.

In addressing these challenges the Bill provides for the establishment of the South African Language Practitioners’ Council. It sets out the objectives, powers, duties and functions of the Council.

Critically the Bill seeks to regulate the training of language practitioners and provide for control of the accreditation and registration of language practitioners.

The Bill also proposes that the South African Language Practitioners’ Council act as an advisory body to the Minister of Arts and Culture on issues affecting the language profession.

The Council is also expected to prescribe the rules governing the conduct of language professionals and the procedures for compliance, monitoring and enforcement.      

Honourable Members we are also proposing that the Council should provide and encourage the provision of opportunities for South Africans, especially from disadvantaged communities, to enter the language profession and practice as language practitioners.

We are confident that the measures we are proposing in the Bill will go a long way towards elevating the status of the Language Profession; ensuring that it properly regulated and that it contributes meaningfully to language preservation and development.

As a result of this Bill, the language profession will take its rightful place in on-going efforts to promote multi-lingualism and contributes towards the creation of an enabling environment for greater appreciation and understanding of languages in our country.

The Bill also ensures that due recognition is given to the language profession and its role in our society.

Following this Bill we are likely to see greater numbers of South Africans pursuing careers in the language profession, not only as an academic pursuit but also as a means towards promoting unity in diversity.

All of this augurs well for the future of languages in our country.

Honourable Members we are doing all of these things inspired, among others, by the words of the founding father of our democratic nation; Tata Nelson Mandela, who once wrote;

“Without language one cannot talk to people and understand them; one cannot share their hopes and aspirations, grasp their history, appreciate their poetry or savour their songs.”

Let us continue to preserve and develop our languages because it is only through our languages that we can reach out to one another and embrace each other’s diversity.

Honourable Speaker, it is my honour to table the Language Practitioners’ Bill for adopting by this House.

Thank you.