Legal Practice Council called to review exam language policy

Published Jan 22, 2024

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The Legal Practice Council’s (LPC) decision to restrict its entrance exams for candidate lawyers to English starting this year is a linguistic human rights violation.

This was according to the the Pan South African Language Board (PanSALB), which has now requested that the decision be reviewed or scrapped.

According to the council, in a notice issued last month they resolved that, from the first sitting of the exams in 2024, all exams will be offered in English only.

“This includes the competency-based examinations for candidate attorneys and pupils, the conveyancing, and notarial practice examinations. This is in line with the LPC-approved language policy, which was approved and adopted by council on November 20, 2020,” the LPC said.

It believed the decision was in line with English being the only language of record in courts and its own internal policies.

The policy might be reviewed every five years from the date of approval or as and when there are changes to organisational operations or changes in legislation.

“In terms of the LPC language policy, English is the language of record for the LPC, and all internal and external communication will be in English. External communication includes communication between the LPC, provincial councils, the legal profession, its stakeholders, and members of the public. It also includes examinations and assessments conducted through the LPC. The LPC’s policy is also informed by the fact that English is the language of record in court proceedings and the predominant language used in business, international politics, commerce, and industry,” it said.

PanSALB said it resolved to investigate the “linguistic human rights violation” and make recommendations to ensure the adoption and implementation of a language policy and language practices that were within the framework of the Constitution.

“It is crucial to promote inclusivity and avoid perpetuating English hegemony, which is discriminatory and exclusive.

“PanSALB has reached out to the LPC to ensure its language policy is compliant with the relevant legal prescripts and will provide recommendations on the matter.

“While the LPC reviews its language policy, PanSALB has advised the council to withdraw the notice published on December 13 with immediate effect,” said PanSALB CEO Lance Schultz.

The language board’s chairperson, Professor Lolie Badenhorst, said the justice system needed to be addressed with urgency as this was against the multilingualism ideals outlined in the Constitution.

“To rectify this situation, the board is engaging and collaborating with relevant state organs to ensure that the justice system reflects the country’s diverse demographics and languages.”

Earlier this month, AfriForum said it had written to the LPC demanding it reinstate Afrikaans exams. AfriForum had slammed the decision as shortsighted and called for the inclusion of more languages, instead of the exclusion of the Afrikaans language.

Cape Times

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