Original Research

The use of technology to preserve indigenous languages of South Africa

Respect Mlambo, Muzi Matfunjwa
Literator | Vol 45, No 1 | a2007 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/lit.v45i1.2007 | © 2024 Respect Mlambo, Muzi Matfunjwa | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 06 June 2023 | Published: 22 February 2024

About the author(s)

Respect Mlambo, South African Centre for Digital Language Resources, Faculty of Humanities, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa
Muzi Matfunjwa, South African Centre for Digital Language Resources, Faculty of Humanities, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa


Indigenous languages in South Africa must be preserved to ensure that they do not lose their identity and become extinct. The four indigenous languages with the fewest speakers among South Africa’s 12 official languages are: Xitsonga, Siswati, Tshivenḓa and isiNdebele. The preservation of these languages in South Africa has been a long-standing challenge because of various social and economic factors. With the advancement of technology, opportunities have arisen to preserve and promote the use of these languages. Therefore, this study explores various technological strategies that can be used to preserve the South African indigenous languages. These languages can be preserved by making them widely accessible to users through various strategies such as localisation of daily used technology, translation through crowdsourcing, digitisation and archiving. Digital learning tools such as machine translation (MT) and creating online dictionaries can also contribute to preserving these languages. Each of these strategies offers benefits on how technology could be employed effectively and facilitate the preservation of indigenous languages. This study demonstrates the significance of technology in preserving indigenous languages and promoting their use around the world.

Contribution: This study fills the practical gap in the use of technology to adequately preserve minority indigenous languages of South Africa, namely, Xitsonga, Siswati, Tshivenḓa and isiNdebele. These languages do not receive much attention in terms of preservation using technology in South Africa. Therefore, the study provides practical technological strategies that need to be implemented to preserve the indigenous minority languages. The insight of this study into the use of technology to preserve South African languages fits well within the scope of Literator, which is to publish studies in linguistics and literature with a special focus on South African languages. This publication will bring solutions to how minority languages could be preserved in the context of South Africa.


indigenous languages; South Africa; technology; technological strategies; preserve; digital learning tools; localisation; digitalisation

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 4: Quality education


Total abstract views: 1131
Total article views: 910

Crossref Citations

No related citations found.