Say hallo, sawubona, dumela, Aa and avuxeni to the Multilingual Statistical Terminology Publication!

Say hallo, sawubona, dumela, Aa and avuxeni to the Multilingual Statistical Terminology Publication!

“The information gap between the elite and illiterate must be closed”. This statement by Statistician-General, Mr Pali Lehohla beautifully sums up the reason for the launch of this multilingual terminology publication. The launch event took place on 20 September 2013 at the Protea Manor Hotel in Pretoria. Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) worked in collaboration with the Department of Arts and Culture, the Pan South African Language Board (PanSALB), University of South Africa (UNISA) and South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) to develop the Multilingual Statistical Terminology Publication – which translates statistical terminology into all 11 official languages.

The Multilingual Statistical Terminology Publication signifies the culmination of an extensive project. Although all our partners contributed to the project in different ways, the Department of Arts and Culture contributed a great deal to the actual development process. PanSALB was especially instrumental in the verification and authentication processes on terminology developed, as mandated by the Act of Parliament. Language specialists from Stats SA and survey area specialists also played a critical role to ensure that the terminology developed is within the correct statistical context.

The introduction of the Multilingual Statistical Terminology Publication shows Stats SA‘s determination and commitment to the improvement of access to information, especially official statistics. What better way to celebrate Heritage Day than by acknowledging the official status afforded to African languages in our Constitution and ensuring that official statistical information is accessible to everyone – with no linguistic barriers.

This is also an opportunity to reflect on how easy it is for anyone in South Africa to access statistical information irrespective of the languages they speak. An engaging website, innovative statistical products and walk-in customer centres will fade into obscurity if the information is not available in languages that everyone can understand, and Stats SA will remain a closed book to them. “This publication makes active citizenship a reality”, said Mr Jenneker, Deputy Director-General for Statistical Support and Informatics in his address. Because, he says, “when the citizens understand what we are talking about they can then participate in the development of the country”. Mr Mohapi, from the Department of Arts and Culture emphasised the importance of this publication when he said “It is important to have standardised terminology so that everyone can understand what is meant when we communicate with each other”. The publication further sets a good foundation for consistency in statistical terminology, which is crucial for comparability of South African statistics with that of other countries that have different languages to South Africa.

It is therefore no coincidence that the publication was launched close to International Translation Day, which is celebrated every year on 30 September. The day was instituted by UNESCO upon the suggestion of the International Federation of Translators. Can you imagine if a survey is conducted throughout South Africa with a questionnaire that is only available in English? Not even Google Translate will be able to help you. And how accurate will the information Stats SA receives be if the people cannot understand the language that is used in the survey? “There are benefits in collaboration on projects such as these”. Ms Netshiheni from PANSALB said this in her speech. “Language is not boring”; these were her words as she concluded her address.

So spread the word: Stats SA is making strides in availing statistics in all 11 official languages, and creating a South Africa that everyone knows and a home they can truly understand!

The publication can be accessed via Stats SA’s website at