Managing linguistic diversity in a South African HIV/AIDS day clinic

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This article addresses aspects of multilingual communication in a number of state-run HIV-clinics in the Western Cape. It describes linguistic diversity in South Africa and shows how the national constitution has planned for such diversity. Practical challenges to the ideals of the constitution that arise when speakers of the various languages come into contact in public workspaces such as medical care facilities, are highlighted. The hazardous terrain encountered by service providers as well as those requiring the services, at multilingual, multicultural meeting points is illustrated. Specifically, attention is given to how linguistic resources of multilingual participants are applied, how language choice is exercised, and how communicative functions are performed in encounters where doctors and patients meet in consultation in an HIV-clinic. On the one hand the chapter is interested in the match or mismatch between language policy and language practice in public health provision. On the other hand it is interested in how people with very different linguistic resources manage communicative events in a context where successful communication is quite a critical part of a treatment plan that obviously involves more than communicative action only.


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