Historical Background

The Pan South African Language Board is established in terms of the Pan South African Language Board Act 59 of 1995 amended as PANSALB Amendment Act of 1999. The Board was established according to the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa ( Act 106 of 1996) in order to:

(a) promote, and create conditions for the development and use of official languages v the khoe and San languages v sign language

(b) promote and ensure respect for all languages commonly used by communities in South Africa, including German, Greek, Gujarati, Hindi, Portuguese, Tamil, Telegu, and Urdu and; Arabic, Hebrew, Sanskrit, and other languages used for religious purposes in South Africa

What is the role of PanSALB?

PanSALB or the Pan South African Language Board was established by parliament (Act 59 of 1995, amended by Act 10 of 1999) to:

-Develop the 11 official langauages, and

-Promote multilingualism in South Africa

-The constitution makes reference to the establishment of PanSALB in Section 6 when describing language rights.The PanSALB Act mandates that it initiate studies and research aimed at promoting and creating conditions for the development of all 11 official languages, plus the Khoe, San and South African sign language

Focus areas

It is worth saying that the Board approaches its language development strategies through the following focus areas:

-Status Language Planning

-Language in Education

-Translation and Interpreting

-Lexicography, Terminology and Place names

-Development of Literature and Previously Marginalised Languages

-Language Rights and Mediation


PanSALB is mandated by law to investigate complaints about language rights violations from any individual, organisation or institution. PanSALB conducts hearings at which complainants and respondents are present, and depending on its findings may recommend steps to be taken by the department or institution concerned.

Constitution of the Republic of South Africa


PanSALB structures

The Board shall in the manner prescribed by the Board by notice in the Gazette and the Provincial Gazette establish:

(a) a provincial language committee in each province to advise it on any language matter in or affecting any province or any part thereof where no such provincial committee exists or where an existing provincial language committee has jurisdiction only with respect to the official languages of a particular province: Provided that if a provincial language committee exists in a particular province, and such a committee is, in the view of the Board sufficiently

representative of the languages used in the province, that committee shall be deemed to have been established in terms of this subsection for as long as it remains representative.

(b) a national language body to advise it on any particular language, sign language or augmentative and alternative

communication, in the case where no such language body exists or where an existing language body does not serve its purpose: Provided that if such a body exists, it shall be deemed to have been established in terms of this subsection.

(c) [national lexicographic] units to operate as companies limited by guarantee under section 21 of the Companies Act, 1973 (Act No. 61 of 1973) and shall allocate funds to the units for the fulfillment of their functions: Provided that the memorandum and articles of association of such units shall include the following principles:

(i) The unit is accountable to the Board for the moneys allocated to it. (ii) The unit shall abide by the policies of the Board (iii) The unit shall adhere to the principles of promoting language development.

Language legislation/language policy/language practice

The Board shall:

(a) make recommendations with regard to any proposed or existing legislation, practice and policy dealing directly or indirectly with language matters at any level of government, and with regard to any proposed amendments to or the repeal or replacement of such legislation, practice and policy.

(b) make recommendations to organs of state at all levels of government where it considers such action advisable for the adoption of measures aimed at the promotion of multilingualism within the framework of the Constitution

(c) advise on the co-ordination of language planning in South Africa


The Board shall actively promote an awareness of multilingualism as a national resource.

Development of previously marginalised languages

The Board shall actively promote the development of previously marginalised languages


The Board shall:

(a) initiate studies and research aimed at promoting and creating conditions for the development and use of:

(i) all the official languages of the Republic

(ii) the Khoe and San languages; and

(iii) South African Sign Language

(b) initiate studies and research aimed at :

(i) the development of the previously marginalised languages in South Africa;

(ii) the non-diminution of rights relating to language and the status of languages existing as at 27 April 1994

(iii) the promotion of multilingualism in South Africa

(iv) the promotion of the utilisation of South Africa’s language resources; and

(v) the prevention of the use of any language for the purposes of exploitation, domination or division.

Mediation and language rights

The Board shall:

(a) render the necessary assistance free of charge for the purposes of submitting a complaint and where necessary shall assist the complainants with the requirements of submitting a complaint (b) [may on its own initiative and] shall on receipt of a written complaint investigate the alleged violation of any language right, language policy or language practice

[NB: The Board may on its own initiative investigate/alleged/ language rights violations; and may subpoena any person, body or state organ to appear before it to give evidence and produce any relevant records or documents]

Co-Operation with other bodies

The Board shall:

(a) facilitate co-operation with language planning agencies outside South Africa (b) strive to promote close so-operation between itself and any organ of state, person, body of persons or institution involved in the development and promotion of language; (c) prior to making or publishing any report, findings, point of view, advice or

recommendation, obtain the advice of-

(i) the provincial language committee concerned established under section 8(8)(a) (ii) any organ of state in respect of a matter impacting directly or indirectly on any language, language policy or language practice followed, implemented or proposed by or in such organ of state (iii) any language body established under section 8(8)(b); or (iv) any person , group, language body or institution involved in or having an interest in the promotion of the official South African languages by inviting submissions by means of a notice to this effect in the Gazette and the Provincial Gazette

[NB: The committee, organ of state or language body referred to above shall be compelled to give advice requested by the Board]

The following functions may be performed by the board at its own discretion

The Board may:

(a) request any organ of state to supply it with information on any legislative executive or administrative measures adopted by it relating to language policy and language practice (b) advise any organ of state on the implementation of any proposed or existing legislation, policy and practice dealing directly or indirectly with language matters (c) monitor the observance of any advice given in terms of paragraph (b) (d) in respect of equitable wide-spread language facilitation services, issue directives on and monitor

(i) applicable standards determined by the Board for such services and(ii) the rendering of such services.

(e) having due regard to the provisions and principles of the Constitution relating directly or indirectly to language matters in general:

(i) monitor the observance of the constitutional provisions regarding the use of language

(ii) monitor the contents and observance of any existing and new legislation, practice and policy dealing directly or indirectly with language matters at any level of government

(iii) assist with and monitor the formulation of programmes and policies aimedat fostering the equal use of and respect for the official languages, while taking steps to ensure that communities using those languages have the opportunity to use their respective languages in appropriate circumstances (iv) establish, compile and maintain databases including, but not limited to databases of: (aa) all legislative measures (including provisions in the Constitution) dealing with language matters: and (bb) every policy and practice of any institution or organ of state dealing directly or indirectly with language matters

(f) commission any person or body of persons or institution to conduct research and prepare publications on its behalf and may for this purpose make resources available to any such person or body or persons or institution (g) summon any person to give evidence before it, or to produce any official document or any such other information or object as may be necessary for the performance of the Board’s functions.

(h) advise government to provide individuals or groups who are adversely affected by gross violations of language rights with financial and other support. (i) In furtherance of its objects and for the purpose of the exercise of its powers and performance of its functions:(i) make rules and issue notices(ii) publish such rules and notices in the Gazette and in the Provincial Gazette(j) consult and work closely with any person or body of persons who has special knowledge of and experience in the language problems of South Africa, or who is in any way involved in the development and promotion of language


Another of PanSALB’s focus areas is that of lexicography and terminology development. Nine National Lexicography Units were registered in 2001, their task being to compile monolingual explanatory dictionaries and other products to help with language development. The Afrikaans, English, isiZulu, and isiXhosa units have published a number of volumes of their monolingual dictionaries. The Tshivenda Lexicography Unit, based at the University of Venda, launched the world’s first Tshivenda dictionary in July 2004, and said it expected to publish the final draft in 2006 or 2007. The lexicography units are based at tertiary institutions throughout South Africa. Each unit is managed by a board of directors and registered as a Section 21 (not-for-profit) company, which allows the unit autonomy to raise funds to carry on its work.