That opinion of Afrikaans that I hate.

I am very passionate about Afrikaans and so feel hurt when I hear certain opinions about it.  Afrikaans is a language spoken by people from many different cultures and of many different colours across South Africa, Namibia and the world, yet some people feel it is appropriate to call it a racist language.  A language itself cannot be racist.  I  am aware of the history of South Africa and why this can be a view that some people hold but, we need to remember that many other languages have also been spoken by those who have oppressed people: German, English, Russian are just a few.  In fact I think if you were to go back in history almost every language in the world would have at some time been spoken by oppressors in and out of government.  I do not hear the same criticism and protest to these languages.  No one is telling Germans that they cannot speak German because it is racist, that would be ridiculous.  It seems we can separate people from language in the above examples, we realise that not every German speaker was a Nazi, and therefore it should be the same for Afrikaans.

I have had native Afrikaans speakers tell me they struggled with their own feelings towards their language after 1994.  They had spent their whole lives thinking, dreaming, and singing in their mother tongue and now did not know how to feel about part of their identity, and I find that heart-breaking: a lot of these people were never involved in the oppression, some where just children then.  I believe Afrikaans has a rightful place in South Africa, yes it stems from Dutch, but it is not Dutch, it is very unique to South Africa.  It is a beautiful and expressive language.  The English words ‘beautiful’ and ‘terrible’ do not even come close in being able to express emotion in same way the words `pragtig’ and `Verskriklik’ do.

If you are an Afrikaans language learner I would encourage you to have the confidence to reach out to native Afrikaans speakers.  As with any language you might get the odd person who is not very helpful but, compared to other languages I have tried learning the response has been much more positive and helpful almost all of the time.  Everyone I have encountered has been genuinely excited and interested in why I am trying to learn their native language.  I have had people literally brimming with excitement in a way that I have not experienced with native speakers of other languages I have learnt, and they seem to truly want to encourage and help you where they can. The love that native speakers have for their language goes a long way to why Afrikaans for me is such a joy to learn, and why I will always continue to learn it.


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