The South African Language Practitioners’ Council Act 2014 under discussion

Annette Willemse -- Thu, 11/27/2014 - 12:45

The South African Language Practitioners’ Council Act 2014 under discussion

Johan Blaauw, manager at the North-West University Institutional Language Directorate recently presented a workshop at the Vaal Triangle Campus (NWU Vaal) on legislation recently passed.

The legislation, Act no. 8 of 2014 (South African Language Practice Council (SALPC) Act, 2014), affects language students and practitioners.

According to Mr Blaauw, who addressed the Language Practice Masters on the Vaal, the SALPC Act aims to provide for: the establishment of the South African Language Practitioners’ Council; objects, powers, duties and functions of the Council; to determine the manner in which the Council is to be managed, governed, staffed and financed; to regulate the training of language practitioners; to provide control of the accreditation and registration of language practitioners; and to provide for matters connected therewith.

Mr Blaauw discussed the implications of the SALPC Act on the language services and individual practitioners. “The publishing of the Bill in May 2013 was unexpected, this is why it is important for us to look at it closely,” said Mr Blaauw.

Language Practice students and professionals who attended the workshop

Important shortcomings

Mr Blaauw says that due to the unexpected publishing of the Act numerous questions were raised and it was important to look into it. During the discussion the following shortcomings were identified:

  • The inconsistent terminology, definitions do not reflect the current situation.
  • Certain Council objectives do not belong in the Act, e.g. language practice services to public; employment of practitioners.
  • The Council’s liaison functions are irrelevant and outdated educational structures.
  • Accreditation for language practitioners was inadequately covered nothing, e.g. on categories of practitioners to be accredited, language combinations, dealing with currently sworn translators or accredited practitioners, level of accreditation, etc.
  • The Act makes no provision for Continuing Professional Development (CPD).
  • Composition of the Board of SALPC is over- representative of irrelevant government structures and under-representative of practitioners, industry experts, other stakeholders, and no representation by voluntary associations.
  • Code of conduct for language practitioners is important, but a single code to cover all branches is inadequate. The South African Translators Institute (SATI) and Professional Editors’ Group (PEG) proposed short generic code with related rules for branches.
  • Funding of the SALPC is not spelled out clearly, there is a risk that registration fees may be too high, which will prevent practitioners from practising.
  • Tariff regulation not addressed.
  • Accreditation not clear, hence registration also not clear seemed as if accreditation based on qualification was possible.
  • The two-year period provided for establishing the council and introducing accreditation was short and without other mechanisms to assist the council in its tasks.

According to Mr Blaauw and Masters Class’ analysis, the Act contains a lot of flaws which makes it inconsistent.

Towards a functional Act: What still needs to be done

The Act was accepted by the president on 16 May 2014 and the commencement date is still to be proclaimed by the president. According to Mr Blaauw, the probable end state of the Act will be that only registered practitioners that will be able to practice.

*The Vaal Triangle Campus (Vanderbijlpark) of North-West University offers both undergraduate and honours studies in language practice. For more information on the BA Honours in Language Practice programme prospective students can contact Melanie Law at melanie.law@nwu.ac.za / 016 910 3508 or Tumi Lesole at tumi.lesole@nwu.ac.za / 016 910 3093.
Further research on language in complex settings is undertaken by the research focus area UPSET (Understanding and Processing Language in Complex Settings). To learn more, visit: http://upsetresearch.blogspot.com/