Over the past 10 years, the NWU has contributed more to multilingualism and nation building than any other South African university. The Pan-South African Language Board (PanSALB) announced the Language Directorate as winner in the category for interperting and translation in 2010. The NWU, along with the University of Cape Town, was also announced runner-up in the education category for higher education institutions. In 2008 the NWU received the PanSAT award for the higher education institution that contributed the most towards multilingualism and nation building.
In South Africa, all higher education institutions must have a formal language policy and establish a multilingual working and teaching environment. What sets the NWU apart is the pioneering role we are playing to ensure multilingualism works in practice. We believe that people are empowered when their language preferences are respected and, for this reason, often exceed statutory requirements in our language policies and practices.
To promote multilingualism in our working and teaching environment, the NWU has introduced a number of innovations:
Three working languages: English, Setswana and Afrikaans are the official languages of communication for staff on our three campuses. These languages have been chosen because they are the main languages used in the regions that the NWU serves.
Classroom interpreting services: To accommodate students with different language needs, the NWU uses classroom interpreting services. At the Potchefstroom Campus, where Afrikaans is the language of tuition, English interpreting is used for a wide variety of selected programmes. Interpreting services are offered in Setswana for certain modules in the BEd programme. Limited interpreting services are also rendered on the Vaal Triangle and Mafikeng Campuses.
Commercial interpreting services: Based on the success of educational interpreting within the University, we also render services at other educational institutions. So far, the service has been launched at the Potchefstroom Agricultural College, primary schools in Potchefstroom and two other universities in South Africa.
Language ombudsman: The NWU has a language ombudsman to investigate and address all language concerns and complaints. The ombudsman is Prof Marlene Verhoef, director of the NWU’s Institutional Language Directorate.