The African Languages Cluster in UKZN’s School of Arts hosted the South African Centre for Digital Language Resources’ (SADiLaR) celebration of International Mother Tongue Day on 1 March. SADiLaR is part of the South African Research Infrastructure Roadmap in the Department of Science and Technology and the celebration was held to mark UNESCO’s International Year of Indigenous Languages.

The isiZulu mother tongue celebration on the Pietermaritzburg campus attracted 86 guests, including students and lecturers from the University, officials from the Department of Arts and Culture, the Usiba Writers Guild, eThekwini Municipality Language Unit, Durban University of Technology students and the South African National Lexicography Unit (SANLU).

Dr Gugu Mazibuko, senior lecturer in African Languages directed the programme, which was presented in UKZN’s official languages, English and isiZulu, through simultaneous interpreting. Isambane Cultural Group performed at the opening and guests were welcomed by Dr Makhubu-Badenhorst, African Languages Cluster leader. Ms Rooweither Mabuya, SADiLaR’s isiZulu researcher highlighted the importance of creating a digital footprint for South African languages and outlined SADiLaR’s contribution in the form of various computational tools and resources. SANLU member, Mr Terence Ball’s interesting talk touched on the constitutional obligations that all government departments, entities and SANLU have to promote indigenous languages and the importance of using dictionaries to improve literacy levels. Keynote speaker, Acting Dean of the School of Arts Professor Nobuhle Hlongwa focused on isiZulu’s historical context and how the language has grown and developed over time.

The question and answer session that followed demonstrated that the event had raised new questions in terms of language development and the future of indigenous languages. A lively discussion was also held on the next step in developing isiZulu as a language of research, teaching and learning.

Words: Ndabaonline