Language As A Tool Of Apartheid

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Language is one of the primary and essential aspects of life. Besides, language is a powerful tool that can do great things. Both verbal and nonverbal language elements serve as a critical, authoritative mechanism to people. At least people need to use language for communication, identity, and cultural distinction. However, language is commonly misused to achieve personal interests in society, especially in a multilingual community. During the Apartheid era in South Africa, the language was used to promote racial segregation. Nonwhite people were sidelined within their country land by the white supremacy for the benefit of Afrikaners. Almost every sector of life experienced tough policies that maimed the possibility of acquiring equity and just a multilingual nation. Trevor Noah’s memoir, “Born a Crime,” offers essential insights on the dark part of language use during and after the Apartheid rule. Nonetheless, language is a powerful tool that can unify or distort a society.

Most of the Apartheid policies in South Africa used the education system to promote racial segregation. Schools have been noted as the key areas where one gets basic and substantial knowledge of various things. For example, a student who knows nothing about the basic writing rules, such as formatting and referencing, can benefit by passing through a writing class by an experienced and qualified tutor. Similarly, there are high expectations that schools help students to acquire knowledge of writing and reading skills. Language is the mastermind of each bit (Versteegh, 10). However, South African white supremacy used this opportunity to promote its ideology by intentionally eliminating blacks and other people of color from accessing the then ‘languages of supremacy’; English and Afrikaans. The curriculum denied these students the opportunity to learn these languages for fear of civilization. Nonwhite people were thought of being enlightened by understanding the official languages used in several critical sectors, such as politics. There were no ways blacks and their associates could understand and use a competitive and authoritative language during the Apartheid rule. Noah notes that he was somehow lucky to understand numerous languages since his parents (Robert and Patricia) were of different races, hence different languages.

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Furthermore, the quality of the trade language used in schools was not enough to attain a just and equal nation. For complete justice between nonwhites and Afrikaners in South Africa, equal English and Afrikaans language utilization was an unquestionable mechanism. The colonial masters introduced instruction policies that vernacular be taught even in universities (Johnson, 86). This tactic was ironically used to lure language users. First of all, insist on vernacular languages in early, middle, and higher learning levels could only introduce a state of imbalance in language empowerment. The native English was kept for whites who thought that they own the nation and its people. Henceforth, the vernacular language use would only promote traditional values among the native speakers but not grasp prestige aligned with mastering native English. Secondly, vernacular language cannot offer innovative affluence to learners. Understanding a certain language allows learners to study the identify the weak points of an oppressor and enemy. Therefore, whites pulled a great pull to make sure that their subjects do not understand the language of trade. Nonetheless, the vernacular language is only suitable for cultural enrichment but not civilization, hence fighting against oppression.

The establishment of ‘tribal homelands’ and ‘townships’ was another tactic used to sandwich language powers among nonwhites. The colonial government laid down policies that literary and physically separated people of local languages to march together. Most blacks were pushed and displaced to rural areas where they could not reach out to each (probably to unite and fight against the Apartheid menace) during most times of need. For example, Bantu speakers, such as Zulu and Xhosa, could not freely interact at village levels for political and social organization. Besides, few nonwhites in urban areas were forced to remain in slums known as ‘townships’ not to form associations. Noah says that his grandmother was among people who were confined in the township slums of Soweto. He further notes that the slums were not safe since they were “designed to be bombed” (Noah, 24). Besides, the townships had two rods that could easily help the government suppress any uprising attempt. The concern remains that language separation is an imminent style of curtailing people’s freedom. The majority of nonwhites had been prohibited from uniting to fight Apartheid practices. The dominating race had been aware of this measure

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Language As A Tool Of Apartheid. (2022, February 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 15, 2024, from
“Language As A Tool Of Apartheid.” Edubirdie, 17 Feb. 2022,
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