6 September 2013

Languages, Introduction

Languages, Part 0

Languages, Introduction

Each language is a work of art, as priceless as any other that can be imagined. All languages are part of the general human heritage.

Languages are kept alive by the speakers of the language, and the writers. This is a communistic collaborative project.

Each language is produced, and reproduced, in a form of organization that is not central, but has an unlimited number of nodes and multiple connections between nodes. (See Ron Press, New tools for Marxists, 1994).

Creation of language is a real-life, on-going example of the kind of mode of production that can supersede the capitalist mode of production. The work is its own reward. The artifact produced is beyond price, and it belongs to all. It at once becomes a common patrimony.

The problem with learning languages is to learn the second one, and then the third. After that, it becomes clear that the more you learn, the clearer becomes the question of language, as such. Learning languages teaches the learner how to understand people, in more ways than just understanding what they are saying when they talk to you. Far from a “confusion of tongues”, as in the Babel-myth, the many languages are all open gateways. None of them are walls.

This course will not teach any particular language, but the CU encourages you to learn more languages, including foreign languages, especially the ones that are spoken by large numbers Africans on the continent, such as Kiswahili, French, and Arabic.

In the modern world of science and mass communication, the codification of language into dictionaries, and the construction of an actual literature in the language, enhances the language produced by the people, to the extent that languages with these assets become competitive and even dominant over languages that do not have a living, growing literature.

In South Africa, there are eleven official languages, but most of them are not well served with dictionaries or with the publication of written literature. This means that the upward mobility of people, caused by our democratic breakthrough and its aftermath, have resulted in a flight to English in particular, as the most developed language in the country, and in the world. This is a trend, but it remains the case that all of the official languages are spoken, and are all the first or home language of significant numbers of South Africans.

Children need to be taught, in the first years of their schooling, in the language that they know from home. This is an on-going problem in South Africa.

This CU Course on Languages

This ten-part course will attempt something that does not exist, as far as we know, in South Africa, which is a critique of language use, and language policy, in the country today.

This is a political education course, and it is one of the sixteen CU ten-part courses.

In this first attempt to do the course, we will need to ask our students and our well-wishers to help with it.

In the first place we need ideas for topics, and if it can be found, we need short texts (articles, speeches, lectures, book-chapters) on the politics of language.

The course will interrogate, and critique, the 11-official-language policy. We will ask if in practice this policy is working as a cover and a blanket under which the nine official African languages are being allowed to fall into greater disrepair. In this regard, we will look at PANSALB, Kha Ri Gude and any other institutions and programmes of this kind that may come to our attention.

We will then propose ways in which language – an institution without a state – can be strengthened with the communist means that we have at our own disposal: Education, Organisation and Mobilisation. Language, as we have seen, is generated communistically. It should be possible to regenerate the same languages communistically.

Hence we will look at the possibility of creating dictionaries by “crowd-sourcing”, using wikis.

And we will look at the possible application of Freirean pedagogical methods for the co-operative learning of languages in study circles, because languages are social, and we think they should be taught socially, as a community of practice, and not as commodified, “qualified” products.

·        To download any of the CU courses in PDF files please click here.


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