Tuesday, 5 July 2005

DA fumes over airport advert

The DA feels strongly about an airport advertisement, with the words "nine indigenous languages, 44 million people..." was grossly insensitive and a "smack in the face of everyone who spoke Afrikaans".

"Afrikaans is a unique language which started here in South Africa. The language, along with our ten other official languages, enjoys the full recognition and protection of the Constitution."

Ja well, interesting... depending what you mean with indigenous language of course ;-)

In the past white Afrikaans speakers tried to emphasise that Afrikaans is a European language. It was the language of civilisation here in South Africa. Then as the politics changed, there was an about-turn and now people want to claim that Afrikaans is an indigenous language (maybe even an African language?)

The truth is of course that Afrikaans is a creolized version of Dutch. It is basically Dutch with some words and grammar rules borrowed Indonesian (courtesy of the slaves brought from Indonesia and Malaysia to the Cape) and this process of creolization took place on the African continent. Does that make it an indigenous language? Or does it simply mean that in future we may also claim that Afrikaans is actually an Asian language! Might become handy in a world where China is the only superpower...

Point being, it is not that easy to make a living thing like a language fit human's constructed geographical boundaries. And it is as clear as daylight that the DA are taking a cheap shot at a billboard in the hope of harvesting votes from white Afrikaans speakers.

I am not so sure however that most white Afrikaans speakers will be comfortable with the DA's insistence that Afrikaans is an indigenous language (by implication worthy of the same rights and protection as African languages). Most white Afrikaans people would think Afrikaans superior to African languages, because it is also used as a technical and scientific language. But maybe that is about to change if you take a look at the Minister of Educaton, Naledi Pandor's plans for African languages.

Pandor said she could not be swayed from the belief that the indigenous languages had been marginalised, neglected and underdeveloped and that "their strengthening and revival depends to a great degree on what we do in education".

The irony is that Afrikaans is the second-most spoken language in Soweto (amongst blacks) as well as the most widely spoken language on the Cape Flats (amongst coloureds) - but very few white Afrikaans speakers will recognise those versions of the Afrikaans language, let alone claim some form of language-bond. And it is of course also true that those blacks who use Afrikaans as their second language after their African language are not part of the black elite that decide on what happens in this country.

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