'Kaaps deserves respect': Readers react to the development of the Kaaps dictionary

play article
Subscribers can listen to this article
"The success of this project will help Kaaps speakers fully participate in South Africa's economy." Photo: Supplied/CMDR
"The success of this project will help Kaaps speakers fully participate in South Africa's economy." Photo: Supplied/CMDR

Parent24 recently published that the Centre for Multilingualism and Diversities Research (CMDR) within the University of the Western Cape has decided to develop the first-ever trilingual Kaaps dictionary, with the aim to restore the dignity of this marginalised language.

In the article Professor Quentin Williams, director at CMDR, told us that they hope that developing this dictionary will have a profound impact on Kaaps as a language of teaching and learning at school and university, as a language for literacy development, and as a language that could be learnt by non-Kaaps speakers in South Africa and across the world.

Must read: 'This will transform lives': First-ever trilingual Kaaps dictionary in development 

Williams shared that this project will help Kaaps speakers to reap the benefits of it becoming a language taught at school and university, as a language used in the economic domains seen across the linguistic landscape of communities.

In response to that article, many readers wrote in to share what this development means for them. Here we share their memories, stories, reservations and enthusiasm...  

Recognition of a unique culture 

Samantha Ryan from Factreton, Cape Town, told us that the development of the dictionary is an excellent idea.

"Because wow, we (coloured people) are never recognised for anything besides crime and division. We are a unique culture, so I think that is a very good idea," she said.

Some reservations 

David Lombardi shared, "One of the things I miss most when away from the Cape is the special culture of the Coloured community. Like any other group, their culture, including language, deserves respect. However, broadening its use and teaching it in schools may not be the way to go."

He added, "Firstly, Kaaps evolves very fast, due partly to its freedom of expression. Formalising it will limit that freedom, and there will be those who will object to new words that do not fit the teachings."

"Secondly, just as Afrikaans evolved from Dutch, with Dutch now no longer being spoken by South Africans, it could result that over time Afrikaans, as we know it today, could be no longer, with everyone speaking some hybrid between the two."

"Whereas most white Afrikaners get on very well with the coloured community, this could result in racial tension. We have enough of that without attracting more."

"It is also my belief that many Coloured folks would prefer their children to speak "accepted" Afrikaans and English, rather than using many of the colloquial words and expressions," voiced Lombardi.

"I am all in favour of recognising the uniqueness of Kaaps and not demonising it but would tread with caution regarding formalising it. It may be a slippery slope to creating a situation where the rest of the world does not understand us!"

Lombardi asked, "while on this subject, is there not a cause to examine the use of the word 'coloured' as that suggests a colour discrimination?"

My Ouma Bettie 

Anita from Fish Hoek in the Cape shared this sweet memory of her and her grandmother with us:

"My Ouma Bettie het in die Strand gebly. Dy het Kaaps gepraat. Vir my as kind van die Oos Kaap was dit alte eienaardig. Ouma het die storie vertel van n eseltjie wat nie wou loop nie. Dan begin sy: Da was eendag n ieseltjie. Dan interrupt ek. Nee, Ouma...eeeeeseltjie.

Dan begin sy oor. Da was eendag n iiieeeeseltjie en die iiiieeseltjie was baie stieks. Nee, Ouma..Steeeeeks. Dan begin sy oor. Da was eendag n iiieeeeseltjie en die iiiiieeeeseltjie was baie stiiiiieeeeaks om te loep. Nee, Ouma, nie loep nie, looooop. Dan begin Ouma weer....Da was eendag....Ouma het nooit haar storie klaar kon vertel nie. En ek weet nou nog nie wat van die stieks ieseltjie geword het nie."

Eko' vanie kaap nu'! 

Another reader, Steven Allison, shared that he calls Kaaps 'Gam'.

He shared: "I grew up in Bergliet, and love the kaapse. Especially the pronunciation of 'tjie' which I was punished for at my school and told to say "kie" instead."

"Wietjay, nu'. Naai, ek gatie. Eko' vanie kaap nu'! I would love to own a 'kaapse' dictionary," he wrote. 

Also read: The story of an African children's book that explains the science of skin colour 

'Kaaps is a language, not a slang'

Erleen Botha from Elsies river feels that the formalisation of Kaaps as a language might break toxic stereotypes and racist slurs thrown at Kaaps speakers, or remarks made by Afrikaans speakers saying that 'Kaaps speakers should speak proper Afrikaans' making the speakers of Kaaps feel inferior to the Afrikaans widely spoken nationally.

She wondered if the development of the dictionary will make Kaaps a language spoken and taught at school. Nevertheless, she maintained that "there is a need for awareness regarding Kaaps as a language."

Botha believes that the development of this dictionary will formalise Kaaps as a language and not just slang.

Credit where it is due

Melanie Snell from Kensington thinks that developing this dictionary is a fantastic thing to do. She explained, "Coloured people are rarely credited for the creation of Afrikaans and are rarely credited for keeping the language relevant."

Coloured people created most of the slang or unpopular phrases, so it is great that there will be a record of everything that was created thus far," she says.

Snell feels, "young people  should be taught that their language is acceptable and not just for certain contexts like at home or in social settings." 

They should feel that their language deserves and can be on TV Shows and other big platforms. Hopefully, the initiative will help put Kaaps as a language in the limelight, says Snell.

Send us some of your thoughts and fondest memories of Kaaps, and what you think about the development of the Kaaps dictionary.


Share your stories and questions with us via email at Anonymous contributions are welcome.

Don't miss a story!

For a weekly wrap of our latest parenting news and advice sign up to our free Friday Parent24 newsletter.

Follow us, and chat, on Facebook and Twitter.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Show Comments ()
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.