Language capital and development: the case of african language publishing for children in south africa

Document Type



Institute for Educational Development, East Africa


In recognizing 11 official languages, the 1996 South African Constitution provides a context for the management of diversity with important implications for the redistribution of wealth and power. The development and implementation of the language-in-education policies which might be expected to flow from the Constitution, however, have been slow and ineffective. One of the casualties of government procrastination has been African language publishing. In the absence of well-resourced bilingual education, most learners continue to be taught through the medium of English as a second language. Teachers are reluctant to use more innovative pedagogies without the support of adequate African language materials and publishers are cautious about producing such materials. Nonetheless, activity in this sector offers many opportunities for African language speakers. This paper explores the challenges and constraints for African language publishing for children and argues that market forces and language policy need to work in mutually reinforcing ways. Further progress is necessarily dependent on the political will to implement language-in-education policies that promote additive bilingualism and, in the process, guarantee sales for risk-averse publishers.

Publication (Name of Journal)

International Journal of the Sociology of Language