Community support - the missing link in indigenous language promotion in South Africa?

  • Ke Yu Human Sciences Research Council
  • Siphesihle Dumisa
Keywords: indigenous languages, African language, community support, language attitude, language policy, South Africa.


Literature on the challenges facing indigenous languages in South Africa often highlights the proverbial policy-practice gap among many other constraints. Drawing on lessons from language policy implementation programmes in other countries, this article offers a critical examination of how the policy-practice gap is potentially driven by a glaring lack of cultivating community support. Although community support has been proven to be crucial in implementing language policies around the world, in South Africa the language policy is designed and implemented from a largely top-down approach. The article provides a brief analysis of the activities of selected non-state actors who promote indigenous languages in the country. It concludes by proposing that greater attention be paid to community support as a necessary and critical step towards ensuring more positive outcomes in promoting indigenous languages in South Africa.