Tag Archive: language

‘Eish – my BMW she is gone’


This is how so many non-black people chose to represent the spoken words of black South Africans. Many think it is very funny to talk in broken English in this way as a way to mock black people but still claim not to be racist.


‘But it’s how they sound’, is the defence given to show that there is no racism in the mockery.


I am not even going to examine the reacism of that statement at all but rather look at how arrogant English speaking people are, even Afrikaans ones. White people in this country speak English – or can. That’s a fact.


I think we as whities are fucking lucky that there are so many languages spoken by the black people in this country. Were this land like many other African countries with one or two predominant indigenous languages we would be fucked. How stupid would we look if we were forced to speak in public in a language we were never properly tutored in? Many of the black adults in this country did not go to schools where they had the luxury of a good education. Many learnt to speak English from poor English-speaking teachers. Many inherited accents which differ from ours, as whites.

That does not make these people stupid.


If I were forced to communicate in public in isiZulu I would be locked up as a drooling idiot. I cannot even get a simply c, x or q right and I am sure I insult or propose to every person I greet because my pronunciation is so appalling.


I would have no chance at being taken seriously if I were forced to speak in a language not my home language


So can we just stop with our obsession with how people, particularly politicians, say things and start focussing on what they say!


I heard a most interesting conversation on safm yesterday.

It was all about Afrikaans as a language of oppression and reconciliation. This is my summary and comment on what I understood yesterday.


Afrikaans is considered the language of the oppressors in this country. It is the language the Dutch of the original colonialists has morphed into. And as such, seems to be forever associated with the raping of the land. The Nationalist Party from 1948 onwards continued to display that the language was one of oppression.


But why and how?

In the early 1900s there was an interest in a translation of the Bible into Afrikaans. It was at this stage that it came to be realised that the language needed to be standardised. To translate the Bible meant simply that there had to be agreement regarding what every word meant. A dictionary had to be created.

When this was done, the Afrikaans as spoken by ‘civilised’ people (read white) was used. This despite the fact that thousands of non-whites spoke Afrikaans as their first language. Words of Dutch, Flemish etc origin were given more power than ones of Cape Malay origins. An example of this apparently is ‘Dankie’ and ‘Tramakassie’. Both words mean the same thing, but Dankie, as a word with Germanic (read white) origins has more semantic value in the language.

Doing this to the language split it into the ‘proper’ (read white) Afrikaans, and the kitchen Afrikaans (read non-white). And so proper Afrikaans as the language of the oppressors was created.


What I find so interesting about this is the huge numbers of non-whites who speak Afrikaans as a first language or as a very competent second language. If you use volume to decide what average is, the average Afrikaans speaker is not the Blue Bulls supporting ex Nat voting dude with a beer belly and holding a braai fork. It is probably a Coloured farm working in the Western Cape with coffee coloured skin and a metal roofed house.

What needs to happen is the restandardisation of Afrikaans so as to include the aspects of the language as used by all of its speakers.

Maybe this is the only way to ensure that Afrikaans survives in this multi-linguistic nation of ours. It would be a pity to lose so original and vibrant a language because only some of the people who use it are allowed to contribute to its development.


Afrikaans does not live only in Tshwane

say what?

A mate and i pretended to be foreigners in our own country yesterday. We put on fake accents which conned enough local people, and went out for lunch. It was very interesting.

We were treated with a great deal more patience than i ever have been when just being me. The waiter was very attentive and spoke to us very clearly to ensure we understood. Communication between waitrons and patrons in this country is often rather fraught. Many of the permanent waiting staff in South Africa are black and do not have English as their first language. Most of the patrons in restaurants are, still, white people who at least have English as a strong second language if not first. (i do not know if this is statistically the case, but for me it certainly is empirically.)

And yet, despite our rather funny eastern bloc accents (who knows what we actually sounded like) we communicated perfectly easily with the waiter. He understood us, we understood him and everything was hunky dory.

 So why do white patrons and black waitrons so often seem to misunderstand each other? Are we being deliberately obtuse? Do we want to be misunderstood to prove some point? Is language a passive aggressive tool of dominance we use against each other?

 I don’t know the answer to these questions but i do wonder of societies with many languages active have these kinds of issues. Or is it just us, with our race/language mixture?