Title page for ETD etd-10172005-155217

Document Type Master's Dissertation
Author Ndabezitha, Nomadhlangala
URN etd-10172005-155217
Document Title Are the South African indigenous languages problematic in the South African multilingual multicultural hospitals?
Degree MA (Afrikaans)
Department Afrikaans
Advisor Name Title
Prof V N Webb
  • no key words available
Date 2005-01-21
Availability unrestricted
In terms of the current South African Constitution (Act 108 of 1996) South Africa has eleven official languages (RSA, 1996:4). The past political South African history and the constitutional status of these languages could cause language problems comparable to those at the Tower of Babel. Adding to the problem is the fact that in South Africa, language is an emotional and a political issue. South African citizens believe that English should be the only medium of communication in South Africa because English is a universally indispensable language. This, however, is not an idea that finds general approval.

There is a great need to explore the language requirements and difficulties experienced in South African multilingual and multicultural hospitals, especially in the case of people speaking indigenous South African languages, namely Sesotho, Sesotho Sa Leboa, Setswana, Ndebele Swati, Tshivenda, Xitsonga, Xhosa and Zulu.

The aim of this study is thus to study the translation and interpreting shortcomings and needs that exist and make recommendations for intervention and improvement. In the framework of the principle of multilingualism, multiculturalism and the promotion of the use of all eleven South African official languages is supported in this thesis. The main focus of this thesis is, therefore, the identification of translation and interpreting difficulties and the suggestion of the remedies and solutions for these language related problems.

Language planning is mainly concerned with solutions to language related problems, therefore this study should be regarded as a language planning activity. In terms of this thesis, the principles of language panning are described, types of language planning, steps of language planning mainly step one, data accumulation, the responsibility of the language planner and the language planning already done in South Africa.

In order for one to make suggestions it is necessary to first identify the translation and interpreting problems in the South African health fraternity.

The Minister of the DAC, the honorable Dr Ben Ngubane, launched the South African Language Policy and Plan on 18 – 19 March 2003. However, there is still an urgent need for a Language in Health Policy (LiHeP) which will specifically cater for the South African health needs.

A language analysis will expose that there is a break in communication between the hospital personnel and their clients in multilingual – multicultural hospitals. This is a problem with wide-reaching and potentially dangerous consequences. The hospital personnel and their clients often do not understand each others’ languages and there are, as yet, no formal or even informal measures to combat this. Instead, the use of hospital staff and other individuals who have an inkling of the target language are used as interpreters. The hospital staff and other individuals acting as hospital interpreters create yet more problems as these people are not trained to be professional health interpreters. Some of these people are not even first language speakers of the target language. The result is that most of the time there is misinterpretation of the messages, for example the term ‘stool’ referring to faeces, is often interpreted as ‘chair’ which confuses the patients. This type of error, could result in a serious breakdown of communication which may be fatal.

Doctors that come to South Africa from countries like Cuba also encounter communication problems due to lack of knowledge of the major South African languages. There is also sometimes resistance from the non-qualified interpreters to perform interpretation tasks as there is no financial reward for doing this. The resistance causes negative attitudes resulting to not executing the interpreting task properly.

In chapter four the difficulties and problems revealed by the empirical studies conducted in a multilingual - multicultural hospitals will be discussed. The views of the hospital staff are reflected in the answers to the questionnaires which they were requested to complete. These views are discussed at length together with the identified problems.

Translation and interpreting are closely related practices, however the distinction between them is explored. These concepts both form the main focus of this thesis at different levels. Interpreting seems to dominate because most of the communication is verbal. Nevertheless, translation does feature when pamphlets and medicines are given to clients for personal use within and outside the hospital premises.

The criteria that translators and interpreters have to meet as well as literary overview concerning problems in health with regard to translation and interpreting are addressed.

Emanating from the data accumulated, suggestions are made in the final chapter as to how these language problems can be solved. A feasible suggestion to solve the problems in the field of interpreting is to have well trained health interpreters. Different aspects surrounding the issue of the training of the interpreters is dealt with and recommendations are made in the final chapter.

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