Edited by Humphrey Tonkin and Maria Esposito Frank
[Studies in World Language Problems 3] 2010
► pp. 17–36
1. Translation as reconciliation
A conversation about politics, translation, and multilingualism in South Africa
South Africa is an example of the urgent need for translation. In moving away from two official languages to eleven, South Africa, limited in resources and unprepared to handle such linguistic complexity at the level of government, has in effect empowered English as the prestige language. The historically compromised Afrikaner population is witnessing the decline of Afrikaans, even though that language is widely used also by the Cape Coloured population. The writer in Afrikaans is having difficulty being heard at times. At the same time English is dominated by received assumptions that exclude indigenous literary forms and the voices that accompany them. In such an environment, translation should be a national priority, not only to make other voices heard but also to broaden the cultural base of English and to include the other cultures and peoples of South Africa in a multilingual discourse. In this sense, translation might mediate among the South African languages – indeed might be seen as a form of reconciliation in which the periphery talks to the center as well as the center to the periphery, and in which all languages are enriched as a result.