In defence of Afrikaans Print E-mail
News - Briewe
Monday, 22 February 2016 20:26
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Preston Will from Cullinan writes:
Response to letter: ‘Why so little English?’ in your January edition:
As an English speaker, I recognise that I am very much in the minority living, as I do, in the delightful hamlet of Cullinan.

The area is, as Rene Walker suggests, predominantly Afrikaans and I imagine that the entire region serviced by The Bronberger would be the same. The demographics would dictate that content would be largely Afrikaans and I certainly don’t interpret that as being a slap in the face of English speakers.

It is simply recognition of the realities and, if part of the motivation is nurturing Afrikaans and ensuring that it remains alive and vibrant, then all power to the editor’s elbow.

In no way at all did Rene in her letter denigrate Afrikaans, or Afrikaans people, far from it, but I wonder if she and her husband have also been warmed by their associations with Afrikaners?

I moved here three years ago from a predominantly English-speaking part of KZN and, apart from a year’s stint in the SA army many years ago, have had little exposure to either the Afrikaans language or the people. This has been a baptism of fire and yet the fire element has been wielded so gently and with such kindness that I have, at times, been overawed.

My clumsy attempts at speaking Afrikaans have never been ridiculed and the inevitable consequence of my ineffectual struggle to find the right word has been that the patient listener answered me in English.

In that regard I think that I, and the vast majority of English speakers, should hang our heads in shame.

Most people of a darker hue can speak at least two or three South African languages with moderate competence, probably the same is true of Afrikaners but, lamentably, my tribe tend to assume that everyone can speak English. Why bother, then, to make too much effort to learn other languages?

There is a character in our hamlet who emanates from England, although many years ago, who is alleged to have said on many occasions, “Why should I bother to learn THAT language?” THAT language being Afrikaans.

How rude and discourteous when he is in the midst of some of the finest people it has been my pleasure to know and I’m sure, if he took the time to analyse his life here, he’d reach the same conclusion. Good people, kind, welcoming, hospitable and I am discovering that the Afrikaans language can be so beautiful.

For that discovery, I have the owners of the enchanting bookshop in Cullinan to thank. Their passion for their proud language is manifest and to hear either of them read extracts from poems written by the likes of NP van Wyk Louw and Eugene Marais is spine-tingling.

There is so much beauty there and I know that I’m just a babe in the woods with so much to learn. I’ve had tantalising glimpses of the wonder of Afrikaans and my quest to learn more will continue for as long as I draw breath.


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