The month of October was dedicated to the language of Siswati, as part of The South African Centre for Digital Language Resources (SADiLaR) monthly celebrations of all official South African languages.
At an event recently held at the University of Mpumalanga in Mbombela, more than 100 people attended the glamorous Siswati occasion as it forms part of the initiatives aimed at sharing ideas, taking action and developing awareness of our languages and language resources. These SADiLaR events are proudly supported by UNESCO's initiative to dedicate 2019 as its International Year of Indigenous Languages.
The recent celebration saw various speakers in the fields of language research, as well as local citizens who have a great love for poetry in this language. Traditional Siswati sing and dance were performed by a local youth group which were received with deafening applause and excitement from the guests. The guests were also delighted with the presence of the Mpumalanga Legislature's Chairperson for Education, Culture, Sport and Recreation, Nompumelelo Hlope.
Siswati researcher, Mr Muzi Matfunjwa, explained SADiLaR’s role to the guests. “Our job is to support research and training. This centre focuses on the digitisation of language resources, and the high-level training of scholars in methodological aspects related to the use of digital language resources in research and development endeavours. We support various projects and initiatives with the help of funding from the Department of Science and Innovation,” he said.
SADiLaR, hosted by the North-West University, mainly runs two programmes:
A digitisation programme, which entails the systematic creation of relevant digital text, speech and multi-modal resources related to all official languages of South Africa. The development of appropriate natural language processing software tools for research and development purposes are included as part of the digitisation programme.
A Digital Humanities programme, which facilitates the building of research capacity by promoting and supporting the use of digital data and innovative methodological approaches within the Humanities and Social Sciences.
The Siswati celebration also received a message of support from the Secretary-General of the South African National Commission for UNESCO, Mr Carlton Lufuno Mukwevho. His message was delivered by Mr Terrence Ball, South African National Lexicography Units (SANLU). He touched on the constitutional obligations that all government departments and SANLU have towards our indigenous languages and the importance of the use of dictionaries in the languages to improve literacy levels.
During the event, Dr Gubudla Aaron Malindzisa, a writer of short stories, novels and educational material, was awarded by SADiLaR for his outstanding contribution to the development of the Siswati language and literature. He also contributed in the development of Siswati terminology and spelling rules and is the translator of the first Siswati Methodist hymn book. He played a huge role in translating the Bible from English to Siswati and has written widely on Siswati literature. He holds a B Juris qualification in Law and a PhD in Literature.
SADiLaR is a national infrastructure funded by the Department of Science and Innovation as part of the South African Research Infrastructure Roadmap.