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