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On 21 February 2022 the Humanities Faculty is celebrating the International Mother Tongue Day by hosting a seminar titled Writing Legal Judgments in isiXhosa: Indigenous Languages and the Law.

The International Mother Tongue Day is in honour of students from the University of Dhaka in Bangladesh who were killed by police on February 21, 1952 while campaigning for the official use of their mother tongue in learning. In 1999 UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) declared this day as the International Mother Tongue Day and it has been observed throughout the world since 2000.

The use of mother tongue to access learning challenges the common perception that language has an interactional function only, i.e. to maintain social relationships such as exchanging greetings. While this function is important,  however, it is not as important as the transactional function of language. This  function is for transmission of knowledge and information during the process of interaction. Studies show that this is achieved best in, or with the support of mother tongue. In learning, mother tongue enables transmission of knowledge in different ways: it recognises and enables the expression of the cultural experiences of the user, it encourages enhanced cognition, and supports acquisition of other languages, i.e. multilingualism.

In accordance with the Nelson Mandela University’s commitment to pursue and provide a fair and an inclusive language environment in knowledge creation, our University, through its Language Policy, recognises the diversity of languages represented in our student and staff body, and is determined to ensure that such linguistic diversity, or multilingualism, is reflected in our communication acts, especially in teaching and learning. This resonates well with the origins of the International Mother Tongue Day.

UNESCO has declared the theme of the 2022 International Mother Language Day as “Using technology for multilingual learning: Challenges and opportunities”. This theme is aligned with the Faculty’s strategic thematic area of  Digital Humanities and its criticality in our academic project on the revitalisation of the humanities. The Faculty recognises the role of digital resources to advance multilingualism, to support quality education and to inspire social cohesion quality teaching and learning for all. One of the projects of the Digital Humanities team is the development of a Virtual African Language Learning to support virtual acquisition of isiXhosa and Sesotho.

The Faculty’s theme for the International Mother Tongue Day was inspired by Judge Mandisa Maya, the President of the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) who is the candidate for Chief Justice (CJ) of South Africa. During her interview for the position of CJ she expressed her commitment to inclusiveness and diversity in the South African judicial system. Her history in the South African legal system suggests her recognition of indigenous languages in ensuring fairness and access to justice for all. This year’s celebrations are organised by the School of Languages, Media and Communication.

Register for the seminar at:

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

Watch our Mother Language Day videos on our YouTube channel.

Contact information
Ms Zandile Mbabela
Media Manager
Tel: 0415042777