ABSTRACT

The story of the making of English as a lingua franca in South Africa is, first and foremost, a story of colonialism. Chapter 3 provides the socio-historical background to the study of English vis-à-vis other languages, especially isiZulu and Afrikaans in South Africa. Their speakers fought their own very separate struggles against English, but ultimately this does not change the fact that the language represents South Africa’s least questioned lingua franca. English has been widely supported among African language speakers as it is often perceived as a much lesser ‘evil’ than Afrikaans which was the language of the apartheid state. After the transition to democracy, it has been primarily Afrikaans and isiZulu speakers who have asserted their languages. But while Afrikaans has failed to maintain its privileged position, isiZulu has been gaining ground, even in domains such as higher education. The chapter lays the foundation to understand the current politics of English in South Africa where, despite many political changes, the coloniality of language and the resulting discrimination against African people constitutes an everyday reality.