Language Policy

, Volume 15, Issue 1, pp 49–69 | Cite as

Micro language planning and cultural renaissance in Botswana

  • Modupe M. Alimi
Original Paper


Many African countries exhibit complex patterns of language use because of linguistic pluralism. The situation is often compounded by the presence of at least one foreign language that is either the official or second language. The language situation in Botswana depicts this complex pattern. Out of the 26 languages spoken in the country, including Afrikaans, a language with European roots, only two, English and Setswana, dominate the public domain; the former is the official language, the language of government, business, media and international diplomacy, while the latter is the national language, the language of instruction in Standard 1, an alternative medium of communication in Parliament, the language of deliberations in Ntlo ya Dikgosi (House of Chiefs) and the language of the media for some specific programmes. The other 23 indigenous languages are relegated to local or tribal use, resulting in a pattern of language use which depicts an “imperfect triglossia” (Batibo in English language and literature: cross-cultural currents. Cambridge Scholars, New Castle upon Tyne, 2008: 18). Also, the problem of overlaps in the functions of English and Setswana has generated the concern that the roles of these minority languages in the family and immediate community domains are gradually being eroded. There are concerted efforts, through cultural renaissance on the part of many community groups, to preserve their languages. Such instances of cultural reawakening are discussed as types of micro language planning. Using the examples of two cultural groups, Kamanakao Association (KA) and the Society for the Promotion of Ikalanga Language (SPIL), the paper argues that the non-recognition of the need to develop and support the use of Botswana’s minority languages beyond the home domain is a major reason for the resurgence of cultural associations functioning as local language advocacy groups. The paper also contends that these associations have become extremely effective in influencing language policy makers to begin to acknowledge and celebrate Botswana’s linguistic and cultural diversity as national assets. The change is indicative of the fact that the linguistic terrain is gradually shifting, a situation which might herald the emergence of an inclusive language policy that harnesses both macro and micro level language planning.


Micro language planning Cultural renaissance Botswana Language revitalization Minority languages 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EnglishUniversity of BotswanaGaboroneBotswana

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