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TermNet - International network for terminology


Report: Intensive seminar on endangered languages, multilingual terminology and language policy (27-31 May 2013)


TermNet co-sponsored the intensive seminar on endangered languages, multilingual terminology and language policy which took place from 27-31 May 2013 at the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa.

It marked the beginning of an intensified cooperation between TermNet, CIPL and South African training institutes.

Read here the report of the seminar:

"Report: Intensive seminar on endangered languages, multilingual terminology and language policy (27-31 May 2013)

The University of Stellenbosch hosted an intensive seminar on endangered languages, multilingual terminology and language policy during the week of 27 to 31 May 2013. This seminar, co-organised by Professors Ilse Feinauer of the Department of Afrikaans and Dutch, Frieda Steurs (KU Leuven – Antwerp campus), TermNet and Professor emeritus Piet van Sterkenburg (University of Leiden), Secretary General of CIPL, was made possible with generous funding from TermNet, the International Network for Terminology, and CIPL, the Permanent International Committee of Linguistics. More than forty language practitioners from governmental and parastatal bodies, tertiary institutions and the private sector enrolled for this five day seminar filled with presentations by various language experts from Africa and Europe.

The aim of this seminar was to equip participants with the knowledge and skills necessary for the development of the indigenous South African languages, which might become endangered if they are deprived of high status functions in public domains such as education, government, commerce, etc. One way to ensure that languages can be used in high status domains is through terminology development and this was the main focus of this seminar. But why a seminar on terminology development with regards to language policy, multilingualism and endangered languages? These issues were recently brought to the fore again in South Africa with the Use of Official Languages Act (2012) which came into effect on 2 May 2013 and the Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga’s plans to introduce an African language from Grade R as from next year in all schools at Grade R-1 levels. The South African government’s plans to introduce African languages in high function domains thus necessitate terminology development in these languages, for which this intensive seminar aimed to equip participants. 
The first seminar was conducted by Professor Ayo Bamgbose from the University of Ibadan in Nigeria, who talked about “Language policy: The African experience”. Having done extensive work on language policy and planning in Africa and with publications such as Language and the Nation (1991) and Language and Exclusion (2000), Professor Bamgbose has been most influential in the discourse on language policy on the African continent. As a seasoned researcher of endangered languages, Professor Bamgbose has also participated actively in various language development efforts in Nigeria and elsewhere in Africa. Seminar participants had the opportunity to draw on Professor Bamgbose’s expertise as he enlightened them on the different aspects of language policy and especially the roadblocks to successful language policy implementation in Africa. He emphasised the importance of language policy and planning as to ensure that language in Africa is not just a “happening” in which languages are unequal and more and more languages stand the chance to become endangered and pushed out by the colonial languages.

Professor Bamgbose’s presentation was followed by a video-lecture by Doctor Anja Drame, who completed her Masters and PhD studies on terminology work in South Africa. Drawing on her experience as a consultant with Infoterm and TermNet, Doctor Drame brought language policy and terminology together by pointing out the importance of terminology planning and policies, such as the UNESCO Guidelines for Terminology Policies and the international ISO standard on terminology policies.

Day two of the seminar represented a more practical approach to terminology development, as Professor Elsabé Taljard (Department of African Languages, University of Pretoria) asked the question: “Terminology planning and practice in South Africa: What is being done, what should be done and what can be done?” As a self-proclaimed “corpus disciple”, who has done research in the fields of corpus linguistics, terminology, lexicography and human language technology, and has introduced the corpus into the Northern Sotho classroom and designed and curriculated a module for beginner learners of Northern Sotho, Professor Taljard introduced seminar participants to various tools that can assist them in making their terminology development faster and more efficient.

An issue that arose during the second day’s session was the need for collaboration between the different institutions concerned with terminology development in South Africa. This issue was addressed during Wednesday’s lecture by Doctor Dion Nkomo. Doctor Nkomo, a senior lecturer in the School of Languages of the African Languages Studies Section at Rhodes University.  He teaches lexicography, terminology and language policy, has worked as a language practitioner and lexicographer in his native Zimbabwe as well as South Africa, co-edited a Ndebele Dictionary of Music Terms, compiled multilingual literacy glossaries at the University of Cape Town under the auspices of the Multilingualism Education Project, and is a member of the Catalytic Project which deals with concept formation in the humanities using indigenous South African languages. It was through this experience in the terminology and language development field that Doctor Nkomo was able to share the various terminology projects undertaken at higher education institutions in South Africa with seminar participants. Participants could critically evaluate, compare and learn from each other’s terminology projects, thus facilitating the need for collaboration.

On the fourth day of the seminar Professor Frieda Steurs focused on challenges in specialised communication and the ways in which these challenges could be overcome through terminology planning. As founder and former president of the Dutch terminology association, head of the ISO TC/37 standardisation committee for Flanders and the Netherlands, a member of the government body for terminology, and professor in terminology and language technology, she was involved in research projects with various industrial partners and public institutions. From her session it became clear that terminology development is indeed a complex and technical process that necessitates well-planned management, like source text management, terminology management, translation management, content management and workflow management, in order to be successful.

The week was drawn to a close by Professor Bassey Antia of the University of the Western Cape, who has a major research interest in terminology and language for special purposes. He reiterated what was said by Professor Steurs by equipping participants with the tools for effective and successful terminology management through the process of strategic management. Professor Antia is not only the author of several books on terminology, but also serves on the boards of several scholarly associations and journals in the field of terminology, and was a contributing author to UNESCO’s Guidelines for Terminology Policies. Professor Antia also emphasised that terminology development will never be successful as long as it only has language development as a goal, but that it should be aimed at empowering people, especially those belonging to endangered language communities.

That this seminar was a success is evident from the fact that participants requested a follow-up session. Equipped with knowledge regarding terminology development, participants indicated that they would now like to hear more about practical ways in which they can contribute to the development of terminology in the indigenous South African languages, thus ensuring that none of South Africa’s indigenous languages runs the risk of endangerment and that all South Africans may be empowered through language. The follow-up session is planned for either the end of 2013 or the beginning of 2014. Professors Antia and Taljard will once again be invited as presenters.   

Prof Ilse Feinauer  
5 June 2013"

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