Alongside this discourse in the education sector it is also important to note that within the Afrikaans community there are two camps:
- those who lay exclusive claim to it – language activists who feel threatened and proclaim that the language in its standard form is under siege
- those who believe the language with its diverse cultures, dialects and variants can continue to thrive in all its forms, alongside all South African local languages.
Afrikaans – language of instruction at tertiary institutions
There is a fierce debate about the language of instruction at tertiary institutions, particularly those who have a long established history as serving predominantly students of Afrikaans origin. For instance, Stellenbosch University students protested throughout 2015 against the use of Afrikaans as the institution’s main language. This culminated in the university management deciding to adopt English as its primary language of instruction.
Prof. Wannie Carstens, Chair of the Afrikaanse Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns (Afrikaans Academy for Science and Art), made a considered argument with regard to finding a solution to various issues pertaining to Afrikaans, particularly as a language of instruction at traditionally Afrikaans universities. Carstens argued that a solution should be found for multilingualism on the country’s campuses. “We must know beforehand that the only solution for Afrikaans (and African languages) lies within a multicultural context” and also that “Afrikaans and race must not become entwined…”
In an edited version of an article* written by Hein Willemse, Professor of Afrikaans, University of Pretoria, Willemse speaks about the controversy over the medium of instruction at traditionally Afrikaans universities and how this has raised the question whether it “should be in Afrikaans, English, a combination, or a hybrid which will include other South African languages”.
Willemse states: “The institution has to find ways to continue to advance Afrikaans without the perceptions and experiences of racist behaviour associated with early and ruling Afrikaner nationalist practices. It’s essential to consider the current status of Afrikaans, as well as its history.
“Many South Africans of every hue have contributed to the language’s formation and development. Afrikaans also has a “black history” rather than just the known hegemonic apartheid history inculcated by white Afrikaner Christian national education, propaganda and the media.
“Afrikaans has a multifaceted nature, numerically dominated by its black speakers. Rather than viewing Afrikaans through a single lens it is today acknowledged as an amalgam consisting of a variety of expressions, speakers and histories. It’s in this spirit that the debate on the medium of instruction at universities such as Stellenbosch has to be conducted.”
*This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article here https://theconversation.com/more-than-an-oppressors-language-reclaiming-the-hidden-history-of-afrikaans-71838
Also read: The hidden histories of Afrikaans by Hein Willemse as published in Mistra.
Views in favour of Afrikaans as a language of instruction:
- Afrikaans is a fully-fledged standard language and an asset for South Africa.
- Afrikaans speakers in South Africa make up a significant part of the South African population and have a constitutional right to be taught in an official language or languages of their choice in public education institutions where that education is reasonably practicable.
- As Afrikaans has a standard variant that is a carrier of culture, Afrikaans speakers have a constitutional right to use the language of their choice and to participate in the cultural life of their own choice, provided that they comply with any provision of the Bill of Rights.
- Mother-tongue education is the proven best medium of teaching and learning, and there is no reason why Afrikaans cannot fulfil that role.
- If the high-level use of Afrikaans is scaled down further, there is little hope that the other indigenous languages will make significant progress.
Views against Afrikaans tertiary education:
- Afrikaans as the medium of instruction would exclude students and lecturers who do not understand Afrikaans.
- English would be the lingua franca of South Africa, and therefore it makes sense to run higher education institutions in English.
- Teaching in English prepares students better for their professional life in South Africa and the world.
- Afrikaans must be ‘freed’ – exactly from ‘what’ is unclear. It presumably means that the language as such is equated with the policies of previous colonial and apartheid governments.
- Afrikaans is the language of the oppressor and therefore does not deserve to be preserved.
Dr Danie FM Strauss, a Research Fellow at the School of Philosophy, North West University, makes the case for Afrikaans, cautioning against what he called “lingual cleansing”. Read his article here.
The other side
Mercy Kannemeyer, an honours drama student at Stellenbosch University, made a 12-minute documentary (Die ander kant) about what stands to be lost if Afrikaans was finally abolished as a tertiary language of instruction. It includes discussions with experts and students; like Helen Zille, Willa Boezak, Rhoda Kadalie, Wim de Villiers and Abraham Phillips.