Viva Afrikaans!

2015-09-30 20:34

The recent flare-ups regarding transformation on campuses all over the country, have created the impression that Afrikaans is not welcome in the South African society. This is very worrying, especially since we have come a long way since 1994. One would expect that twenty-one years into democracy, people have accepted the fact that South Africa consists of a wide variety of cultures and that we all deserve a place in the sun.

Afrikaans has a history that makes it very difficult for the language to be accepted among Africans. However I do believe that it would be a pity if the language were to be shoved aside. It is a fully developed academic language and as such it should be given the chance to function in an academic context.

That does not mean that non-Afrikaans people do not have the right to study. Yet it seems the measures that have been put in place to accommodate these students are not acceptable. This is a pity to me.

Services like interpreting or parallel medium instruction offer an option to those who don’t have a full command of the Afrikaans language. It seems like a viable solution to me.

Why then are there so many students who seem to be frustrated? First and foremost one should ask if it is indeed the students who are frustrated. Different role players have lately voiced the opinion that the riots on different campuses are orchestrated and controlled by someone other than the students.

This is a worrying fact, especially since universities are serious about transformation and are working hard to achieve their goals. One can only hope that those involved in stirring up the emotions among students will reconsider and act responsibly.

Afrikaans is no longer “the taal van die onderdrukker”. It is a beautiful language. It deserves to be cherished. It is there for everybody. Allow Afrikaans to function fully as an academic language alongside English…

Rather than banning Afrikaans, let’s work towards elevating the status of other languages. The University of Stellenbosch has already started with contributing towards the development of Xhosa.

In order to celebrate the diversity of cultures in South Africa, we have to embrace this diversity. That means making room for each other. It also means accepting each other and each other’s differences.

Afrikaans is a part of this diversity. It cannot be wished away. It shouldn’t be excluded and it shouldn’t be denied its rightful place in society.

It is interesting that most of the speakers of Afrikaans are non-whites. Afrikaans belongs to all of us. It is not a weapon against transformation. It is not a form of racism. It is not a revival of apartheid. It is part and parcel of the make-up of this country’s rich diversity.

Let’s celebrate Afrikaans by embracing its academic status. Beware of using English as a means to exclude other mother-tongue speakers. Yes it is a lingua franca. However we should refrain from using it in a way that detracts from the cultural diversity of South Africa. Instead of becoming a nation characterised by a colourless grey, we should work towards reflecting the different colours of the South African cultural landscape. After all a rainbow has many colours. Therefore viva Afrikaans, viva!

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