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The intellectualisation of African languages : the case of the university of Limpopo

Some research has been done on the intellectualisation of African languages. However, African languages are still not used enough in academia; in fact, they are undermined. They need to be developed into languages of education, economy and social interaction. This means preparing the languages for use in more advanced contexts. The aim of this study was to examine the intellectualisation of African languages at the University of Limpopo. Methodologically, this study was achieved through a qualitative-descriptive research design, with the use of semi-structured interviews to find out if the University of Limpopo was actively involved in intellectualising African languages. The data collected was analysed through thematic content analysis. The first finding is that the University of Limpopo has a language policy whose implementation requires improvement. It was found that there is no parity or equitable use of the languages of the university, mostly between African languages and English. It has been observed that African languages can improve the academic performance of students at the University of Limpopo. The study further found that the development of African languages can help students and lecturers to learn these languages, so they can communicate with each other in these languages and thereby promote multilingualism. It has been found that the University of Limpopo is a good place to promote and exercise multilingualism as it is a multicultural community. The significant point here is that there is a need to devise strategies to improve the implementation of the university’s language policy. It is concluded that the intellectualisation of African languages would help minimise (if not erase) any language barriers, particularly for those who would be working with individuals on a daily basis in their respective fields. There is a need to do campaigns to educate students about the importance of mother tongue and African languages as well as to remove the negative perceptions about these languages. One recommendation for the university is that the University of Limpopo must come up with an implementation plan to implement its language policy. One recommendation for other researchers is to come up with more strategies on how higher institutions of learning can implement their language policies and intellectualise African languages.


Keywords: African languages, higher education, implementation, intellectualisation, language policy, Sepedi, Tshivenda, University of Limpopo, Xitsonga

Full Name
Dr Alydia Modjadji Letsoalo