Language is a system of representation that enables us to encode and convey meaning through the production and combination of signs. (Neves, 2011) Multilingualism can, therefore, be described as a person’s capability to maintain and practice two or more languages in an environment. This concept is quite commonly seen throughout South Africa as there is a total of eleven official languages. These languages are critical in today’s youth as they are exposed to a culturally diverse society which enables them to broaden their thinking in every-day life.
Language within societies can be broken down into two categories, namely Linguistic Determinism and Linguistic Relativism. “Linguistic Determinism proposes that different languages incorporate radically different worldviews which ultimately determine how people think.” (Neves, 2011) This notion is vital in the youth of South African society today, seeing as South Africa is naturally so diverse with a wide variety of cultures. If this notion of “Linguistic Determinism” is proven to be true and we are capable of allowing our youth to learn and be exposed to all these languages including the ‘way of thinking’ that comes in hand with this experience, it can only result in brighter and stronger generations being brought through the ranks as they are then capable of picking up on all the strengths that can be found within each language. Just one of the many important characteristics that must be embraced by the youth.
Unfortunately, language has the power to destroy unity within a community as seen during the Apartheid Era. The white population was a minority of the South African population while the remaining seventy-five percent was black. There was only one way to prevent cohesion within this ethnic group and this was to isolate not only the African languages, but also the strong cultural connection and identity. (Louw, 1992) The Apartheid Government had only two official languages, English and Afrikaans, and this disadvantaged many ethnic people as their home language was not recognised and this divide was emphasized further. However, language has the power to create unity and emphasize the importance of multilingualism as South Africa expanded its official languages to eleven which covers the previously disadvantaged ethnic groups. This new multilingual society helps the generations which did not experience Apartheid, better known as the Born Free Generation, understand and embrace the dynamic variety of language. The Born Free Generation are still young and have the power to emphasize the importance of carrying forward and fostering the development of several languages so as to create a bigger and better multilingual society.
There has always been a shift of language in South Africa as early as the early colonists as the power shifted from the Dutch to the British colonists and English remained as the official language. It is the language of Politics and it was used in the shift from predominantly...