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South Africa

Episode 2 of 3

28 minutes
First broadcast:
Monday 10 December 2012

Anthropologist and linguist Dr Mark Turin travels to South Africa to get to grips with the country's complex language politics and policies. Until the mid 1990s, there were just two official languages, English and Afrikaans, while other indigenous African languages were sidelined. Today the situation is different, with eleven official languages recognized by the Constitution of South Africa as having equal value and importance.

But what does that mean in reality? How can so many languages operate alongside each other in Parliament? And can they all have equal weight? Mark Turin visits a Soweto school to find out which languages children learn and what they speak in the playground, and talks to multilingual journalists and writers about the importance of their mother tongues.

He meets Afrikaans speakers to learn whether their language can shake off its associations with the racist apartheid regime, and visits Cape Town to see the South African Parliament in action and meet the interpreters that make it work.

Mark Turin is used to heated discussions when it comes to politics and language, and in South Africa he finds his greatest challenge.


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