Exploring the “Use of Official Languages Act” in South Africa

The Use of the Official Languages Act was drafted to ensure the usage of the marginalised indigenous African languages. Through the use of the governments statutory language planning agency, The Pan South African Language Board (PanSALB). PanSALBs mandate, as provided for in section 6(5) of the Constitution, is to “promote, and create conditions for, the development and use of

(i)             all official languages;

(ii)           the Khoi, Nama and San languages

(iii)          sign language

(iv)         to promote and ensure respect for all the other languages spoken by communities in South Africa.

This is so that all languages, more importantly but not limited to the official languages can “enjoy parity of esteem and be treated equitably” as stated in the Constitution. However since the Act has been published in 2012 and revised by PanSALB, not much has been done to implement the Act until this year. The Act itself is sound and could, if properly implemented, have a positive impact on:

  • individual, societal and economic development,
  • improving productivity in the work place,
  • heightening South Africa’s international competitiveness,
  • narrowing the gap between the rich and poor,
  • providing a more in depth understanding of the many cultures in South Africa.

The use of all the official languages should be encouraged in commerce but in order to fully realize the Act we need to start at the foundation, specifically, primary and secondary education. Many of the indigenous languages will need to be developed and codified in order to meet the standardized and accepted English and Afrikaans but the linguistic capacity (vocabulary, morphology and syntax) is there, it simply needs to be developed.

There are naturally other obstacles that need to be addressed such as the level and capacity of teachers in public and (some) private schools. (http://www.timeslive.co.za/local/2011/10/10/teachers-fail-primary-school-simple-fraction-test)

The act brings with it a stir in the language industry in South Africa. With Government taking steps to implement the act across banks and public institutions there has been a flurry of activity to have materials translated and made available in a number of official South African languages. Bangula has been at the forefront of much of this activity, providing skilled resources to assist public and private institutions alike to comply with the act.


Bangula has been running big and small translation projects for our clients successfully for over 10 years. We’ve built up an excellent database of tried and tested freelancers over the years. This experience has enabled us to develop an outsourcing model that truly benefits our clients. Bangula specialises in helping government departments to become compliant with the Official Languages Act.

Contact us now to find out more.