Dr Langa Khumalo.

Dr Langa Khumalo has been appointed Director of UKZN’s Language Planning and Development Office (LPDO).

Khumalo read for a PhD in Linguistics at the University of Oslo in Norway, completed his MPhil in Linguistics at Cambridge University in England and did an MA and BA Honours at the University of Zimbabwe. He is a Fellow of the Cambridge Commonwealth Society and a recipient of the Commonwealth Scholarship.

He believes the role of the LPDO is to assist all sections of the University to embrace and foster functional bilingualism through the promotion of the equitable use of the English language and isiZulu as provided for in the University Language Policy. ‘It is something that cannot happen overnight and it requires careful expert planning,’ said Khumalo. ‘As an office we want to be the centre of excellence in the promotion, development and the scientification of indigenous languages with specific reference to isiZulu,’ he added.

‘Our objectives are very clear: first, we seek to promote the development of isiZulu to be a language of administration, teaching and learning, research and innovation while accentuating the role of English as a primary academic language.

‘Second, we promote, facilitate and oversee the adherence to the statutory provisions in the development of technical terminology in isiZulu. Third, we monitor and render quality translation, editing and interpreting services to the entire university community and finally, we are in the process of developing a Zulu national corpus and Zulu term bank as important reservoirs for the development of robust Human Language Technologies (HLT) and for posterity.’

Khumalo was seconded from the School of Arts in the College of Humanities where he taught in the Linguistics Programme, and views his new position as ‘a challenge that extends my academic boundaries’.

‘It has exciting prospects seeing that among other things we will be building a Zulu national corpus and a Zulu term bank. I look forward to working with a whole gamut of stakeholders that include the Department of Arts and Culture, PanSALB, KwaZulu-Natal universities, the Publishers, Provincial government, among others.’

Looking at the broader South African context, Khumalo believes there is a need to review the status and role of African languages in South Africa. ‘Language is a very powerful tool that can be used in the advancement of a people but if used recklessly has the potential of destroying society.

‘A careful plan should be put in place in order to raise the profile and role of the African languages from “village languages” to languages that can express modern ideas, languages that are used equally without hindrance to achieve social cohesion.

‘As communicative tools African languages should be used by anyone to advance knowledge without any ideological prejudices. To get there we need expert corpus planning. To get there it will definitely take time. There are languages that are endangered in this country, the Khoisan languages, and we must be alive to that reality and do everything to preserve them.

‘It is, after all, provided for in the Constitution. Again we must deploy our expertise to document and preserve these endangered languages. A university is an institution that cannot shake off that responsibility,’ said Khumalo.

Khumalo joined the UKZN in 2009 as a Mellon Post-Doctoral Fellow after having taught at the University of Zimbabwe and served at the same institution as a Senior Research Fellow and Research Leader of the Ndebele Lexicography Unit at the African Languages Research Institute. He has also been a guest researcher at the University of Oslo and a Senior Mellon Fellow at Rhodes University.

He is married to Gloria and has four children. ‘I support Chelsea FC and love our favorite family programme Who Wants to be a Millionaire.’