Ikalanga 50 Years On: A Cross Border Language Against Tremendous Odds

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Joyce T Mathangwane


Ikalanga language is one of ‘minority’ languages of Botswana spoken in the North East District and in some villages in the northern part of the Central District. It is a cross-border Bantu language also spoken in the southern and south-western parts of Zimbabwe. As one of the minority languages in Botswana, the language does not have any offi cial status hence it does not play any role in the education, administrative circles or the media. This is despite the fact that before Botswana attained Independence in 1966, the language
was taught in primary schools in the Tati Reserve. Many Bakalanga elders recall their first lessons being in Ikalanga in the 1950s in villages such as Masunga, up to standard 3 or 4. However, this situation has not deterred Ikalanga communities from taking steps to develop and preserve their language. This paper, therefore, highlights steps taken by these communities within the last 50 years of Independence to promote and preserve Ikalanga against tremendous odds such as the unfavourable language policy in Botswana whereby only two languages, Setswana and English, enjoy some recognition as the national and
the official languages respectively, at the exclusion of other languages in the country.

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