ABSTRACT

Cosmopolitanism and parochialism represent two sides of the same coin in the politics of English as a lingua franca in South Africa. Chapter 6 focuses on the cosmopolitan nature associated with English vis-à-vis the perceived parochialism of local languages, especially in relation to higher education in South Africa. As elsewhere in the world, English has – in its strong position as the global academic lingua franca – strong cross-racial support from local stakeholders. At the same time, Afrikaans has been constructed as the ‘language of exclusion’ by student groups which has led to it losing ground against English in the higher education system. And yet calls for decolonization in universities also question the hegemonic role English holds in South African education and the low positioning of African languages in teaching and learning. In this chapter, I describe how the strong position of English as an academic lingua franca has triggered a language policy change at Stellenbosch University, and, at the same time, run parallel to a metalanguage discourse among members of the Stellenbosch Afrikaner community and beyond that constructs English as the ‘only’ really oppressive language in the country. The chapter aims to deconstruct binaries which arise out of these contestations and shows the parochial and ethnic identity politics following from this space and context.