Language board fails to get people talking

Bad language and bad bumps

Publication October 10, 2016

A recent article, quoting the Tax Ombud, was titled “South African’s won’t pay tax if it wasted”. Allow me to tell you two unhappy experiences of my own regarding lost contributions.

The little traveller’s French I know I learnt in my car. There are a number of excellent ‘Learn French in your car’ CDs and MP3s available.

I was driving to Pretoria one morning taking a French lesson and looking at the thousands of vehicles crawling towards Johannesburg in the opposite direction. It occurred to me that if even a small percentage of people who crawl along in their cars every day in rush hour had suitable language courses available in all of the 11 official languages, multi-linguilism would take a big step forward in South Africa.

Who better to write to than the Pan South African Language Board? They are established in terms of their own act “to provide for the recognition, implementation and furtherance of multi-linguilism”. Lots of syllables there but the intent is clear. Better still that one of their functions is to actively promote an awareness of multi-linguilism as a national resource. Three letters to the Board produced no response whatsoever. I then approached a local university’s language school.After all, part of my taxes also helps to keep them in business. After a couple of letters I managed to get an appointment to see them and the only result was that I lost the CD that I lent them as an example. I then wrote to an international language course company in London who make money out of selling an out-of-date “Learn to Speak Zulu” course that requires you to sit with a book next to you to learn the language. Again no reply. There are many of us who would make the effort to learn another official language if we were given the resources. Perhaps the Language Board didn’t think it was a good idea. But at least as a public institution, publicly funded, they should give a rational reason for rejecting it because it is a good idea and I would like to know why they don’t think so.

My other efforts also hit a bump in the road. I have been a member of the Automobile Association so long I am embarrassed to put their sticker on the back of my car showing how long it is. After many years of contributions for which I have had nothing more than two jumpstarts, an expensive new battery and a magazine I don’t read, I wrote to the AA to suggest they do something about the speed bump problem.

You all know the problem. Speed bumps come in all destructive shapes and sizes, the paint is faded and the warning poles at the side of the road have disappeared. They are the scourge of vehicles and have destroyed many vehicle undercarriages of AA members and other motorists.

I suggested that they take it up with the municipality to see that there is a standard specification and maintenance plan for speedbumps so that cars are not damaged even when they proceed cautiously.

I corresponded with the AA for well over a year to arrive at their suggestion that I should do something about it myself. So I gave that up as well.

All it has left me with is a feeling of irritation when I see the Language Board publishing its achievements or I receive my motoring magazine.

My mother had a word for it which is not frequently used anymore but it should be. Feeble.

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