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LANGUAGE INITIATIVES (article first published : 2004-04-6)

The Department of Arts and Culture recently launched language initiatives aimed at promoting multilingualism in South Africa. The initiatives are the result of years of consultations, planning and policy development processes since the dawn of democracy in 1994.

The Department of Arts and Culture (DAC) expects high demand for languages services as soon as the SA Languages Bill has been promulgated. The DAC wants to ensure that the country has appropriate human resources when the Bill becomes an Act. The Language Act will affect all sectors of society from government, business and the ordinary members of the public. The events of the day will start with a colloquium where government leadership, academics, NGO’s, traditional leaders, business and other sectors of society will deliberate on the issue of multilingualism in a democratic South Africa.

The multilingualism initiatives include a Bursary Scheme, Language Research and Development Centres and Human Language Technologies (HLT).

Bursary Scheme: The DAC has set aside R5 million for the 2004/2005 financial year in its budget for the bursary scheme for post-graduate studies in translation, editing, interpreting; Human Language Technologies, language planning. Under-graduate studies will be provided for in the 2005/2006 financial-year. The bursaries will be offered to students interested in specializing in Tshivenda, Xitsonga, Siswati and isiNdebele languages.

Language Research and Development Centres: The Department has set aside R9 million in its 2004/2005 financial year budget for the setting up of the Centres. The LRDCs will focus on usage and research for the nine indigenous languages of South Africa, namely; Sepedi, Sesotho, Setswana, siSwati, Tshivenda, Xitsonga, isiNdebele, isiXhosa and isiZulu). The centres will be based at institutions of higher learning. One of the key objectives of the Language Centres will be to ensure the usage of the indigenous languages for business, politics, research and government information purposes.

Human Language Technologies (HLT): (HLTs) are enabling technologies that assist human beings to interact with computers by using language and speech. These technologies range from high-level machine translation systems to voice-operated educational or commercial systems, (e-governance) and e-commerce applications.

More information from Mack Lewele on 012 337 8173 or 082 450 5076.




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