Reply to Marianne Thamm on the Afrikaans language

In a recent article on the Daily Maverick, Mariann Thamm states that Afrikaners like me are on the “unhappy train”:

The station at Evita se Perron serves as a metaphor for Afrikaans speakers right now. Two opposing camps – those who are fiercely possessive and who feel threatened, sit on the one platform while those who would like to see it flourish, are seated at the other. What follows then would be the equivalent of the opening scene of Woody Allen’s film Stardust Memories, where two trains are standing idle side by side before starting off in opposite directions. Allen’s protagonist, Sandy, finds himself in a carriage with hostile and unsmiling passengers with the doors and windows locked. The other train is filled with really happy people drinking champagne and having a party.

Sandy, in the unhappy train, tries to get out and begins to argue with the conductor before he and his fellow passengers are deposited on a seaside garbage dump where they wander aimlessly around the debris. Dan Roodt and his ilk are on the unhappy train while the rest of us are on the other.

No, you English are on the unhappy train, that is why you are all either on drugs or on therapy.

Pieter-Dirk Uys is irrelevant to Afrikaans. His perspective on Afrikaans and Afrikaners is so English, I am sometimes surprised that he is actually not British-born and bred.

It is wrong that Afrikaans “was created” by slaves. There is no linguistic evidence for that, only a (little) book by a Wits linguist who did not understand how languages change and also had little knowledge of other languages besides Dutch and English. If you look at Swedish, it must also “have been created by slaves” as it is equally simple as far as verb conjugation goes. Just go to Stockholm and count the number of slaves there among all those blue-eyed folk driving Volvos. (80% of cars on Swedish roads are Volvos, if you have never been there.)

Many of the other elements of Afrikaans pointed to by idiots to claim that it is a “creole language”, such as reduplication (repetition of words for emphasis, etc.) exist in all European languages, including English, but particularly in the northern European languages. Swedish is absolutely rife with it, but also the Low German dialects in the north of Germany which have sadly almost died out.

I strongly suspect that Afrikaans was a shipping and trading language from 1300 to 1600 in northern Europe, partly Dutch dialect and partly Low German (Low German was never standardised), which came to the Cape via the ships. It has not changed much in 700 years, except that we standardised it from 1875 onwards. As Raidt says in her book, “Afrikaans en sy Europese verlede”, referring to Afrikaans phonology:

“Ons kan tereg sê, die hedendaagse Afrikaans het ‘n eie, kenmerkende fonologiese struktuur wat oor ‘n baie lang tyd ontwikkel het…” (p. 171)

She thinks that the phonological changes from Dutch took place over 200 years in the Cape, but many Dutch speakers say Afrikaans sounds a lot like Swedish, pointing to that northern European evolution between 1300 and 1600 when the 400 Hansa cities traded with one another, until the Thirty Years War.

One German woman whose mother tongue was a Low German dialect learned Afrikaans during the Second World War and wrote a PhD thesis comparing Afrikaans to Low German and there are a vast number of very similar or the same words as in Afrikaans. We use so many even High German idioms in Afrikaans that we do not even notice it, only when you hear German do you realise that we have those expressions too.

There are about 10 to 20 well-known Khoi words in Afrikaans and about the same number of Malay words that came not necessarily from slaves at the Cape but because of the extensive trade network of the Dutch East India Company with Indonesia and Malaysia. One Malay word that has replaced the Dutch word “zeer” in Afrikaans is “baie” which we use all the time, as well as “baadjie” or jacket.

The theory that there was sudden language change or pidginisation or creolisation at the Cape is completely without foundation and is being pursued for simply stupid political and politically correct reasons.

Although I am not a professional linguist, I could demolish that theory in one or two articles in a peer-reviewed journal. (Don’t worry, this is on my to-do list and I have already corresponded with the global expert on reduplication who is very excited by the prospect of seeing my list of Afrikaans expressions containing terms like plek-plek, gou-gou, etc.) You will see Professor Wannie Carstens reaching for his jumbo-sized bottle of Valium or Prozac.

Standard Afrikaans will endure not because anyone is making movies in it or singing it, but because the standardisation process has been so meticulously done – by Afrikaners. Even if Afrikaans dies out, the next generation will be able to learn it from grammars and dictionaries, just like Hebrew was revived after 2000 years in Israel.

One person can change a language and literature, like Pushkin did for Russian or Cervantes for Spanish. Perhaps the most prolific modern author of Afrikaans is Karel Schoeman who writes an Afrikaans that is not only standard and pure, eschewing any English influence completely, but also contains traces of classical Dutch which most of us won’t use but he does. I haven’t counted the number of his books but forty or more would not be far off the mark. As opposed to the negligible writings of creole authors in their ugly mixture of Afrikaans and English, which is not suited to literary or scientific expression.

Together with Dutch and German, we speak one of three unique Germanic languages that have been highly standardised, representing 130 million of the most highly educated, literate people in the world whose contribution to science and technology is unrivalled in history. If one adds the Scandinavian languages (I am amazed at how close Swedish is to Afrikaans after one recovers from the initial impression of foreignness), there are 150 million people in this language family, now all connected via the internet. Afrikaans is in fact closer to standard Dutch than about 10 of the 40 Dutch dialects spoken in the Low Countries (the Netherlands and Belgium).

But Afrikaans is unique in that it has had to contend with linguistic repression for 200 years from English, from children being made to stand in the corner with a Dunce cap with a sign saying “I must not speak Dutch” to the sustained attack upon the Afrikaans universities launched since 1994. Even the National Party never really tried to undo the damage and unequal treatment that we have always received from the pro-British administrations.

I have recently started to think that the Anglo-Dutch wars of the early seventeeth century have never ceased. Holland just needs to wake up a bit and realise the danger of being so close to England.

That Afrikaans survived is not only a miracle, but points to a kind of Darwinian linguistic resilience, forged in a linguistic duel to the death with the world’s most powerful imperial language. Not so long ago I saw a Russian lamenting that films in his language “cannot compete with Hollywood”, leading me to understand that Russians also watch Hollywood movies dubbed into Russian.

However, in South Africa, there is a market for Afrikaans movies, books, music, computer programmes, etc. The best homeschooling programme for maths is in Afrikaans, written by a maths professor from Pretoria; it only costs R300 per year. If this government destroys the Afrikaans schools like they are threatening to do, we will just continue at home.

So go ahead, bomb our schools like you English and your Israeli friends do all the time, in Palestine, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and everywhere else! The English child-killer, that is the historical figure we encounter again and again.

Linguists have coined the term, “killer language” which applies mainly to English as it annihilates all other languages. But Afrikaans is not dead yet, not as long as we resist and our children speak and write it, even if they are discriminated against at all levels by this very English government.

You will never assimilate us; get that into your thick English skulls. Milner could not do it, Asmal could not do it and your pet communist Blade will as sure as hell fail too.

Once we free ourselves from English colonialism (white or black, it is all the same), Afrikaans will explode and might even reach those northern European shores where the loss of their Low German dialects have left people with the numbness of an amputated limb. Technical Dutch is a bit of a joke and therefore they need some Afrikaans computer terms too!

We just need to get our act together and forget about being “liked” by the English who will never like us. In fact, English people hate all other cultures and especially other European cultures. Call it the “island mentality” or what you will, but an Englishman will never acknowledge beauty or achievement by anyone else. When they set foot in France they complain all the way to the Louvre and back and think that the pound should be used instead of the euro.

Perhaps the Third Anglo-Boer war will start before the race war. I think in 1994 the English Marxists in this country thought they had finally subjugated us and could now just make one law after the other or just take over all our institutions, anglicise them, intimidate us and control us with their relentless “apartheid” propaganda.

The kind of comparison made above, between us and Germans, is completely off the mark:

“How do you wrestle your language from the cold and ruthless grip of
history and politicians who used it as a weapon against fellow South
Africans? Post-war Germans grappled with this question and many still

No, how do you grapple with the fact that your language was first imposed on us in your odious concentration camps and that currently your murderers and rapists have been let loose to terrorise us everywhere in our own country?

Unlike the goddamn English genocidaires, terrorists and fanatics, we have never used Afrikaans as a weapon against anyone or imposed it on anyone else. Most people learn or study Afrikaans out of their own free will and because we have such excellent Afrikaans teachers who really love what they do.

The source of conflict in this country is precisely the screwed-up English colonial identity and the sadistic domination fantasy of a scant million people who want to dominate 55 million others.

Isn’t it high time to start talking about that?

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  1. Wow, wat ‘n antwoord.
    U praat van Sweeds wat baie soos Afrikaans klink – dit is waar. Ek het saam met Swede gewerk en kort voor lank het ek hulle gesprekke gevolg. Ek het ook dieselfde van Noorweegs gevind. Daar was jare gelede ‘n Noorweegse rolprent wat hier vertoon het en halfpad deur toe kom ek agter ek lees nie meer die onderskrifte nie.

    Dankie vir skrywes soos die.

  2. Met verwysing na die onderstaande uit Dan se brief – “we have never used Afrikaans as a weapon against anyone or imposed it on anyone else”, wonder ek wat die waarheid is agter die swartes se sg. “weerstand” toe die ou regering Afrikaans op swart skole wou “afdwing”, en dit nogal ‘n weerstand maak wat deur skoolkinders ge-inisieer is sonder om volwasse swartes daarmee te verbind. Om te redeneer dat swart skoolkinders, selfs matrikulante, die inhoud van hul leerplan so onaanvaarbaar vind dat hulle in opstand kom is na my mening verregaande en polities korrek.

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