Tuesday, 5 July 2005


Sheesh! Now this was eerie. I've been meaning to write something on the whole DA/ Afrikaans/ billboard thing, and as I logged in I saw Krizz beat me to it.. and actually said a lot of what I wanted to say... ai-ai.

I didn't do 5 minutes of Internet research for nothing, however. So here's my (somewhat deflated) opinion:

I saw the billboard at Jhb International last week and the first thing I wondered was how long it's been there, as we haven't heard the indignant laments from the usual crowd. The second thing I wondered was is it really true: no word for "foreigner" in nine indigenous languages? Hmmmm.

On the indigenous issue, Krizz talks about the meaning of the word. One of the definitions at Dictionary.com describes indigenous as: "Originating and living or occurring naturally in an area or environment." Ok, so there is some argument for saying Afrikaans is indigenous to South Africa. Whether a linguist will call it an African language is up for debate, as Krizz has pointed out.

The issue of the ad's claim kept bugging me: "nine indigenous languages, 44-million people and not one word foreigner" or something to that effect. Obviously this excludes English (apart from not being indigenous) and Afrikaans. There is... well, foreigner and there is vreemdeling. So even if you regard Afrikaans as indigenous, you can't go around and make the same claim while including it, now can you? That, at least, should tell the DA and FF+ to talk to the hand. (I won't even go into Tony Leon's attempt at Afrikaans in an election ad some years ago: "Dit iz Tony Leon fon di Dehmôquwratieze Pôrrrtay" - what language was that, meneer?)

But. And it's a big, hairy but: is there really no word for foreigner in the other nine? How do these people communicate? What do they call the favourite South African target of all xenophobic outbursts: Nigerians?

Not to worry. It turns out, the ad lied. A quick Internet search turned up no Zulu word for foreigner (score: 1 out of 9), and the Xhosa dictionaries are few and far inbetween (score: possible 2 out of 9), but lo and behold the search results for foreigner in Northern Sotho: lephatle (outsider, foreigner), mofaladi (emigrant, foreigner), mošele (stranger, alien, foreigner), ntopolane (foreigner, victim). Four! The only outcome is for someone to now explain to me that these words actually mean something else. Go for it if your Northern Sotho is better than mine, but the ad might need to go to the ASA for other reasons. (I didn't check the others, sheesh, I have a life!)

At least those supporting Afrikaans as African have one more ally: The Online English to African Dictionary. Look again. African is a language? Not really, they meant Afrikaans. But if the Internet says it is so, who are we to judge?

No comments:

Post a Comment