Interpretation – South Africa is counted as one of the most recent democracies from a global and African perspective. The new democratic dispensation is a culmination of many political and cultural developments that the country has experienced. The political developments brought about a democratic society driven by a progressive constitution which embraces the rights of all.
The new democratic dispensation under a new progressive constitution meant that South Africa moved away from a two language policy which was the case under apartheid to embrace eleven of the country’s languages as official languages as well as recognising sign language and other heritage languages.
This new culture and system has seen different provinces of the country embrace its culture and unique languages. The media has also embraced this approach with many television and radio stations all broadcasting much of their content in local languages. State organs and departments like the Department of Justice has dedicated a significant amount of their budgets towards employing about 2500 full-time court interpreters and others to cater for the country’s diversity of language and needs of those on trial.
With regards to policy, great strides have been made towards the issue of language diversity. The national language policy framework (NLPF) which has a number of provisions included in the South African Languages Bill was approved by cabinet in 2003.The NLPF has contributed to language transformation because it stipulates that all national government structures and public institutions must adopt one or two more working languages. It also states that government publications should appear in all eleven languages and official correspondence and oral communication with members of the public must occur in the language of the citizen’s choice. This act also states that each department of national government and each province must establish a language unit responsible for inter and intra-departmental communication. All these stipulations of the Act resulted in the National Language Service receiving a once off amount of R11.9 million in 2004/5 to implement the National Language Policy framework and the department of arts and culture has spent R9 million to establish nine centres which are mostly hosted at tertiary institutions to spearhead the development of indigenous languages. All these efforts have culminated in many national departments appointing language practitioners and developing language units which have been tasked with establishing departmental language policies and assessing the need for translation services.
From the above efforts, it’s clear to see that enough time and financial resources have been dedicated towards the development of language and the skills of translation and interpretation. The efforts of the South African government in this regard will certainly serve to be a blue print for many countries especially on the African continent.