In a previous post, I wrote about the predicted demise of African languages in South Africa.
For a while I thought that perhaps the Prospect magazine article does not take into account the official status of some South African languages in our neighboring countries. I thought surely the survival of siSwati, Sesotho and Setswana are guaranteed because in countries where those languages are spoken by the vast majority of the population, and where they have official status, there should be no problem. I thought that these countries and their universities would eventually become the intellectual base for these languages, also for South Africans who speak siSwati, Sesotho and Setswana.
But what are the facts? I’m not keen to legitimize the CIA by using their “World Factbook”, but as a quick reference it is useful. According to the Factbook, the status is as follows:
Lesotho: English is the official language
Botswana: English is the official language
Swaziland: English (official, government business conducted in English), but siSwati is also official, though what that means is unclear if government business is English.
The situation on the ground might be different from what these facts suggest, but I will not be surprised if the Universities (and even schools) in these countries are English. This suggests to me that among South African languages, only Afrikaans has a desire to live. The others will still be around in at most 100 years. But I think they will be extinct in about 200 years.