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A Rainbow of Languages for the Nation

A Manifesto for Linguistic Rights in South Africa

We, the members and friends of the Esperanto Association of Southern Africa, would like to affirm our commitment to multilingualism in South Africa.

We notice:

1. The South African Constitution recognises eleven languages as official languages of the nation. The latest language policy plans to take more steps to protect indigenous languages and to promote multilingualism. We welcome these efforts, which reflect our will to grow together with our fellow citizens in a spirit of tolerance, equity and empowerment.

2. However, this political will is not always reflected in the South African society. It seems to us that too many South Africans attach positive or negative feelings to languages because of their perceived political background. In this context the English language is attributed a considerable value as the world language with ‘liberating abilities’ (Webb) – while this very perception, and the prevalence of English in education, result in a devaluation of other official languages and a possible loss of self-esteem for their speakers.

Our answer:

1. Our philosophy is inspired by the principles of the Prague Manifesto adopted by our mother organisation, the Universal Esperanto Association. It is based on the values of democracy, global education, effective education, multilingualism, language rights, language diversity, and human emancipation. We are also inspired by the Universal Declaration of Linguistic Rights, of which our association is a signatory.

2. While we welcome the opening to the world, as made possible by the end of Apartheid, we believe that the English-speaking world, composed of the countries which happen to share the same colonial past, and elites of many other countries, gives a false impression of cultural quasi-uniformity – which tends to be transposed to the South African society, at great loss for its indigenous cultures.

3. Esperanto, a neutral world language, learned voluntarily across the world by people from the most various social and cultural backgrounds, offers a resolution to the dilemma. It opens its speakers to the global diversity, and helps revalue our country’s cultures and languages as parts of the world’s mosaic.

4. We support all projects of the Esperanto community which aim at cultural exchange in this spirit, like Indiĝenaj Dialogoj (a scheme that gathers indigenous peoples from all continents and empowers them by means of dialogue in Esperanto) and Interkulturo (a project aimed at broadening the horizons of schoolchildren and enhancing their cross-cultural understanding through web-based correspondence across the globe).

5. We hope to find interest in South Africans curious of the world but mindful of protecting its riches. We offer courses and many affordable opportunities to travel and meet people from other continents.

PO Box 2636, Cresta 2118 - www.esperanto.za.org - info@esperanto.za.org - ( (011) 782 5807