English Communication: The Currency of South African Culture and Commerce

The South African workforce arguably stands out as the world’s most ethnically diverse. The success of South Africa’s bold experiment in multi-cultural democracy depends, in large measure, on its success in developing common values, norms, and expectations among various elements in the workforce. Although South Africa wisely has adopted eleven “official” languages, sociologists emphasize the importance of common language in developing workplace culture. English communication remains the medium of power, prestige, and wealth. Whereas most South Africans recognize the value of advanced education as the means to upward social mobility, even more recognize how skill in English communication drives students and workers up the educational ladder. As the old expression goes, until workers master English communication, they will remain outside the boardroom with their noses pressed against the glass. When workers master English communication, board members will invite them in.