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Language diversity a key feature of the Wits community

- Wits University

International Mother Tongue Day is observed annually on 21 February to promote linguistic and cultural diversity.

There are over 130 linguistic groups represented at Wits University whose staff and students come from different parts of the world.

To mark this day, a special display of books written in the variety of languages on the African continent is currently on in the William Cullen Library on Braamfontein Campus East. The library houses the Africana collection, which consists of social, political and economic history books, as well as books on the languages and literature of Africa.

Languages are central to our humanity and sense of belonging.

According to the United Nations, 43% of the estimated 6000 languages spoken in the world are endangered. Only a few hundred languages have genuinely been given a place in education systems and the public domain, and fewer than 100 are used in the digital world.

Wits University is contributing to the sustainability of South Africa’s indigenous languages through the new Wits Language Policy. Adopted in 2015, the policy seeks to unlock cultural knowledge that resides in African languages and develop multilingual graduates/professionals who are in tune with their environment and the people that they serve.