International Mother Tongue Day will be marked on February 21. (SABC)
The Pan South African Language Board has encouraged parents to speak to their children in their mother tongue in a bid to preserve indigenous languages. This as the country will mark International Mother Tongue Day on Sunday.
About 200 young people gathered on Saturday at the Castle of Good Hope to highlight diversity.
Learners from Noluthando School for the Deaf performed the national anthem in sign language while those who are not hearing impaired, sang along. Sign language is seen as the 12th unofficial language in the country.
Poems and musical items in a variety of languages, including sign language, are some of the ways that the day was marked.
Young people attending the event say it is important for the current generation to learn their mother tongue.
"I heard there are so many mother tongues in the world. There are 7000 languages and many are being lost. I feel like it is something we need to work on," says one learner.
While another says, "It is wonderful to learn your mother tongue. In our democracy, we can now speak it freely. There are few people learning isiXhosa. Yes, English is one you must know but it is so rare for someone to speak their own language and know their culture."
The Pan South African Language Board also says not enough is being done to preserve home languages, which are an inextricable part of South Africa’s cultural history.
Spokesperson Nomfundo Mali encourages parents to take part in preserving mother tongues. "You must have books, traditional books which are written in indigenous languages. Have sessions with your kids to read, even if it is just for 30 minutes every day. That will make a difference in the future and in the career of the young generation."
The event held on Saturday also forms part of the Castle's 350 year commemoration. Heritage co-ordinator at the Castle of Goodhope, Moeshfieka Botha, says the history of language and the Castle cannot be separated as those who were oppressed and imprisoned there spoke a multitude of languages.
"Something that we cannot take away from the castle is the indigenous languages that were spoken here. So in keeping with not only the vision of the Castle and the commemoration, we want to make the space a platform for nation-building, for healing, for dialogue."