Let’s talk language

(No, English is not the new chosen language for my very Afrikaans blog. But in having a debate about language, why not be international.)

I started tutoring a young man yesterday. After a jubilant jump for the money I’ll be making, I had a deep and very ecclesiastes discovery of responsibility. This young man’s schooling probably depends largly on the fact that he needs to pass Afrikaans and English. It did not take very long before I googled just about everything on tutoring tips. I also managed to clean out the children’s books and How To Teach self-help guides from our library.

Upon meeting him, my fears of having some terribly lazy child for a student immediatly disappeared. He could identify his problem areas and we were able to start cramming for his spelling test tomorrow.

Have you ever played hang man out of desperation to establish some cognitive memory thing where a child will reach a perfect state in which he can spell: “ernstige“? I did. I’m adulting. This is exactly the definition of adulting.

Adulting: (verb) Playing hang man with children to establish a memory pattern on how to spell second language Afrikaans words.

Ernstige: (Adjective) The consonant crazy Afrikaans word meaning ‘serious’ or ‘for reals’.

  1. The English boy could not pronounce ernstige. For reals.

Approximatly fifteen minutes before our lesson was over, he handed me a tiny poem of six four-line stanza’s, also in Afrikaans.

“I have to memorise it for tomorrow.” he said defeatedly.

I glanced at the poem. It was horrible. The rhyme was astonishing. It was filled with made up words and re-inforced gender stereotypes. But who am I to criticise our education system.

So here we are.

I am trying to explain what “bedrywig” means by signalling to the ‘b’ which is similar to the ‘b’ in ‘busy’ and motioning some driving action because, to me, ‘bedrywig‘ sounds like having to drive to a million places at once.

Bedrywig: (Adjective) Also a consonant crazy Afrikaans word meaning “to be busy”

  1. I was not bedrywig enough to teach him how to pronounce words and memorise poems simultaneously.

Of course, being the little morality scavenger that I am, I reached a conclusion about the debate on teaching Afrikaans as a second language in schools.

The conclusion being: It’s useless.

No, not the student. The language is useless. I have never met a man who enjoys speaking a language he was forced to learn. Never have I ever encountered someone who can only speak Afrikaans. Therefore Afrikaans, in no way, aids in communication within our country. Ever. Unless you’re in a dutch reformed old age home- perhaps then. But even old people were forced to speak English at a stage (oh look at that- we just discovered the reason behind the Afrikaans Language Panic).

Before we all jump onto our patriotic high horse, let’s reconsider.

Does giving children long and difficult poems to memorise evoke a love for the language? No.

Will a hate for the language establish a necessary communication skill for some political debate concerning gender stereotypes in schools? No.

Will exposure to a language in an engaging and creative way assist in sparking an interested child? Maybe.

Will an interested child choose a secondary language to study? Probably.

So, little Afrikaans man running the school system and forcing your language on people- you’re dooming your own language.

Philip de Vos: Aspoestertjie http://versindaba.co.za/2011/07/10/wanneer-is-ordentlik-nie-meer-ordentlik-nie/

2 thoughts on “Let’s talk language

Add yours

  1. I am an Afrikaans first additional language teacher and much of what you experienced is something I face every day.
    I agree, I think we KILL the language and so, my goal in life is to teach my students that it is very possible to have fun while learning to “STOMPI” and “Lydende vorm”. I do believe that I am slowly winning the battle and have found some things to work better than others. (Send me a message if you are interested in some time saving tips, I’ll gladly share!)
    However, I tell my students that learning Afrikaans isn’t our goal as much as much as learning to have empathy for others when they can’t speak English. Or learning to be appreciative of people trying to address us in our own language, whatever it may be.
    Also, in the end, to find an appreciation for the pearls of beauty found in some of our literature.

    It’s a long road, but when a student in matric writes me a letter in Afrikaans, thanking me for letting her struggle while never doubting she can master it, I know that it’s worth it!


    1. I agree! So happy to see someone else experiencing the same. A respect for a language and addressing someone in a home language is what we should be striving for. So happy there are people cultivating this in classrooms. Thanks for the reply.

      Liked by 1 person

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