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‘Unique’ dictionary to preserve San language

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The aim of the campaign is to encourage South Africans to speak and live their languages, and create a more multilingual society

IN AN EFFORT to preserve one of the oldest surviving San languages, the Pan South African Language Board (PanSALB) has announced the development of an audio-visual dictionary which includes N/uu.

The historic announcement was made during the 29 Days of Language Activism campaign that was launched in Tshwane yesterday.

The aim of the campaign is to encourage South Africans to speak and live their languages, and create a more multilingual society.

PanSALB acting CEO, Dr David Maahlamela said the audio-visual dictionary will ensure that indigenous languages do not die.

“In an effort to ensure that

N/uu, the oldest surviving San language, does not go extinct, PanSALB has partnered with Briza Publications to develop an audio-visual dictionary in N/uu. The dictionary, which is also called the Talking Dictionary, is the only dictionary that links key words and phrases to detailed, full-colour illustrations and incorporates technology to allow readers to listen to the pronunciation of terms and phrases in different languages. This unique language education tool assists in the teaching and learning of vocabulary and phrases from the target language,” said Maahlamela.

Briza Publications manager Christo Reitz said they were incorporating all languages and the dictionary was available for purchase on their website and in various book stores in the country.

One of the three remaining fluent N/uu speakers, Ouma Katrina Esau, was used to do voice translations in N/uu.

Esau, who has been working tirelessly to preserve and teach

N/uu, said she is elated to be part of the project.

She had been actively and passionately preserving the ancient language by giving classes to youngsters in Upington.

The provincial senior manager of PanSALB, Boichoko Moremi, said that the audio-visual dictionary was a “huge accomplishment for the Northern Cape as N/uu is only spoken in this province and not anywhere else in the world”.

“We have a unique heritage which we should take pride in and ensure we preserve it for all generations. This is also an indication on how serious PanSALB is about the preservation of languages. We want all languages, not just the official ones, to remain with us. We have three unique Khoi and San languages and we need to preserve those languages.”

Moremi called on government to partner with the board to ensure that languages live on.

“We need the government to come to the party and assist the board with programmes aimed at preserving language. If the board has to struggle alone to preserve languages then all our languages will die out,” he said.

Maahlamela supported Moremi’s position on the importance of preserving indigenous languages.

He said that the dominance of English poses a great threat to the survival of many languages.

“It is crucial that we not only seek to preserve our linguistic diversity, but also ensure that we instil a sense of pride in one’s ability to fully articulate complex matters in one’s mother tongue. We ought to be deliberate in our efforts to effectively decolonise and intellectualise indigenous languages.

“As we celebrate our linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism, it is important that we continue reflecting on the Republic’s use of all official languages and other languages, as enshrined in the Constitution,” Maahlamela said.