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AFRIKAAPS: Who does Afrikaans belong to?


Awe me broer! This past Monday, the CIEE Service-Learners had the incredible opportunity to screen Afrikaaps (a documentary about the history of Afrikaans, one of the world’s most politically charged languages) with the director. Afrikaans is one of South Africa’s 11 official languages spoken mostly by whites and coloureds, and is stigmatized as the language of the white oppressive class. It’s also the only language in the world with a monument built in its honour. The director, Dylan Valley, is coloured and his parents didn’t teach him Afrikaans when he was growing up, so listening to him explain the social consequences of that decision, and the reasons behind it, was fascinating and provided insight into the struggles Afrikaans-speaking non-whites face. He calls the message of the documentary the “emancipation of the Afrikaans language,” reclaiming the ownership of the language to transform it into a means for empowerment.

 Needless to say, we had lots of food for thought to chew on, along with the delicious pizza. One of the Service-Learners, Crista Carter, particularly enjoyed considering the parallels between the African American and the South African coloured community experiences, comparing the politics of linguistics involved in both Ebonics and Afrikaaps, saying when people try to say either of the languages aren’t legitimate it places the people who speak it on a lower level and makes them feel less human. Language is clearly a controversial part of South African society, and I know we’re all excited to observe and experience the linguistic atmosphere for the rest of the semester!

Written by Guest Blogger,

Rebecca Reed- Vanderbilt University



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