NWU and SADiLaR celebrate Setswana

Issued by North West University
North-West, May 9, 2019

The North-West University (NWU) and the South African Centre for Digital Language Resources (SADiLaR*) hosted a collaborative event to celebrate Setswana as an official language of South Africa, on 6 May 2019.

This event is part of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation's (UNESCO's) 2019 International Year of Indigenous Languages (IYIL2019).

SADiLaR is henceforth celebrating the country's 11 official languages by assigning each language to a month of the year.

SADiLaR has dedicated the month of May to celebrate Setswana as an official language of South Africa, with the theme of "Setswana in the 21st century".

"The main idea is to share ideas and take action by creating awareness of our languages, and by developing our languages and language resources," says Valencia Wagner from SADiLaR.

Various tribal chiefs, Setswana academics, students and language experts from around South Africa attended the event.

Topics discussed included the historical background of the Setswana language, the impact of Indigenous Knowledge Systems on the development of Setswana. Other topics were the development of Setswana dictionaries, new ways of teaching Setswana literature, and the constitutional obligations of all government departments and the national lexicography units to indigenous languages.

One of the speakers, Mokgatle Mothoagae, spoke about the historical background of Setswana. According to him, Setswana is not only a language, but also a culture that needs to be preserved. He urged academics to play a major role in preserving and promoting the language.

The North West premier, Prof Job Mokgoro, also sent a message of support. "Language is what identifies us; it is in fact our vocal collective blueprint. It is what gives us an identity; it is interwoven with our culture, ethos and tradition," he said.

"We are humbled by the decision to uphold and promote South African languages, and appreciate the dedication of the month of May to the Setswana language."

* The South African Centre for Digital Language Resources (SADiLaR) is a national centre supported by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) as part of the new South African Research Infrastructure Roadmap (SARIR).

It has an enabling function, with a focus on all official languages of South Africa. The centre supports research and development in the domains of language technologies and language-related studies in the humanities and social sciences.