Dr. Pieter Mulder FF Plus Leader

Very few people in South Africa speak Afrikaans. That is why it is better to switch to English

Wrong. Afrikaans with 6,8 million speakers is the third largest language in South Africa, after Zulu (11,5 million) and Xhosa (8,1 million). English (4,8 million) is only spoken by 9,6% of the South African population as their mother tongue (Census 2011).

Afrikaans is the majority language in two provinces (Western and Northern Cape) and the second strongest language in three other provinces (Free State, Northwest, and Eastern Cape). Research, furthermore, shows that only 50% of South Africans readily understand English. The rest choose to be communicated with in their mother tongue.

In the world, there are more than 7000 languages. Afrikaans is approximately the 140th largest language.

Afrikaans does not have a place in South Africa because it is a “white man’s language”.

Wrong. The majority of Afrikaans speakers are not white. OF the 6,8 million Afrikaans speakers, only 2,7 million are white. Brown Afrikaans speakers make up 50% (3,4 million); white Afrikaans speakers 40% (2,7 million); black Afrikaans speakers 9% (602 100) with the rest from other groups (Census 2011). Thís means that more than 60% of the Afrikaans community is not white.

Because Afrikaans is the language of the oppressor, it is better to scrap Afrikaans and to switch to English.

English was the language spoken by those who perpetrated the worst slavery and colonial exploitation in Africa. The Nazi history was perpetrated by Germans speakers. Yet, English and German are not punished for this history. Why today punish the majority Afrikaans speakers, who are brown and who were on the receiving end of Apartheid?

Afrikaans does not belong in Africa because it is not an indigenous language.

Afrikaans’ roots are Western, but with strong influences from Asia (Malaysia) and Africa. Apart from Afrikaans being named after the African continent, it is not spoken anywhere else in the world. How can it not be an indigenous language? The dishonesty of people who say so lies in their favouring English, which apparently as a colonial and European language belongs in Africa.

For the long term survival of predominantly Afrikaans universities, it is better that all universities become English because Afrikaans has a shrinking market.

According to the SATU, 54 000 white, brown and black Afrikaans speakers wrote matric in 2011. OF these, 36 000 obtained university exemption of which 29 000 had enrolled at universities. Thís justifies two to four campuses which offer classes in Afrikaans.

Afrikaans is not technical enough to use as an academic language.

Only five languages have in the twentieth century developed to the highest level, i.e.: Hebrew, Catalan, Indonesian, Hindi, and Afrikaans. More than 450 technical dictionaries and terminology lists have been developed in Afrikaans for instance for the medical, information technology, space, and many more fields. Five South African universities still offer classes in Afrikaans. Afrikaans is offered as a subject at Dutch, Polish, Russian, American, Belgian and many other universities. The international recognition of Afrikaans can be seen from the fact that, for example, Microsoft, Google, and Nokia offers Afrikaans as one of their option languages.

English is an international language – that is why it is stupid to want to study in Afrikaans.

International research has shown that education in one’s mother tongue is always the best. The Chinese study in Chinese; the Germans in German and the French in the French language. The German economy is the strongest in Europe, and although few Chinese speak or understand English, they scientifically are more advanced than many other countries and have already sent many spacecraft into space.

Besides English, Afrikaans is the only South African language which is also understood internationally. In the rest of the world, there are 24 million people who understand Afrikaans in, for example, countries such as the Netherlands, Belgium, and Surinam. It is not true for the other South Africans languages.

The proponents of Afrikaans are anti-English.

Proponents of Afrikaans are not anti-English. English is important and open many doors – especially internationally. That is why English should be taken as a subject by students up to university level – preferably compulsory. Afrikaans students who study in Afrikaans, do very well internationally where they often have to work in English. Research proves that students do better when they learn difficult concepts in their mother tongue, for example, Afrikaans (Kathleen Heugh). Because they know English as language, they can communicate and perform well in an English world.

There is a big difference between mastering English as language as opposed to English as the only language of instruction in every subject.

To use Afrikaans as a medium of instruction at a university goes against the Constitution.

Section 29(2) of the Constitution reads: “Everyone has the right to receive education in the official language or languages of their choice in public educational institutions where the education is reasonably practicable. In order to ensure … , this right, the state must consider all reasonable educational alternatives, including single medium, …”

Of the 36 university campuses in South Africa, only two are still predominantly Afrikaans. Thís means that the majority of courses at these universities can be started and completed in Afrikaans. Are two predominantly Afrikaans campuses too much to ask?

A language cannot disappear.

Many languages have already died out. Currently, there are 1500 languages with less than 1000 people who speak the language, which are on the brink of dying out. Afrikaans is a Germanic language. Of the 22 Germanic languages, 10 have already disappeared. Languages can and do disappear.

As long as a language is still being spoken, it cannot disappear.

If a language is no longer spoken in courts, in Parliament, in schools, in universities and the economy, it loses its status, and there is little incentive for parents to raise their children in that language. Within three generations, such a language can disappear.

Afrikaans excludes and offends.

Do not generalise singular incidents and apply it to all Afrikaans speakers. Afrikaans dare not become the prickly pear in the South African language orchard. The manner in which the ‘language struggle’ is being driven, will determine it. It is in the interest of all South African languages that Afrikaans continues the struggle.

The well-known writer Chris Barnard said: “If English gains the upper-hand in South Africa, it is more than just Afrikaans that will become a victim. Ten indigenous languages will disappear. The only non-indigenous language (English) will remain and will get all eleven pieces of the cake, maybe give a polite burp and continue further into Africa.”