African language publishing for children in South Africa: Challenges for translators

Viv Edwards, Jacob Marriote Ngwaru

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


The commitment to multilingualism embedded in the 1996 South African Constitution has wide ranging implications for many aspects of education. This paper focuses on the dearth of teaching and learning materials in African languages required to deliver effective bilingual education, and on the potential role of translation in offering solutions for this problem. Drawing on an analysis of currently available African language books for children and interviews with educators, writers, publishers, translators and organisations concerned with book promotion, it explores issues which have emerged as critical for both the quality and availability of translation. Attention is drawn to the ways in which translation can be perceived to either help or hinder the process of introducing children to reading materials in African languages. The challenges of working in the highly specialised field of children's literature with languages that have undergone varying degrees of standardisation are described. Finally, the tendency to translate mainly into the larger, more commercially viable languages is considered, together with suggestions for ways in which publishers might be persuaded to translate across all official languages.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)589-602
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • African languages
  • Children's books
  • Language policy
  • Learning materials
  • South africa
  • Translation


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