Afrikaans: a dying language

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Senior Member
Am. English
What is the position of Afrikaans in South Africa today? Is the language surving or is their more emphasis placed on Xhosa, Zulu, or English? I have two friends who are Caucasian and from South Africa. They tell me their parents speak in Afrikaans all the time, but they only know English. Is this because of apartheid and the associations with language and power?

  • Abu Bishr

    Senior Member
    Afrikaans, South Africa
    South Africa used to be made up of primarily 4 race groups during the Apartheid era: Whites, Indians, Coloureds (including those of Malay origin) & Blacks, and in this order of classification. Because South Africa was colonized by both the Dutch and the British at different periods, these two became the official languages during the reign of Apartheid. So schools were basically either Afrikaans or English, if Afrikaans then English was the second language, and if English then Afrikaans was the second language taught at that school. African tribal languages were not recognised and only spoken by the native African population of SA. Because some of them lived in rural areas far from the cities or send to live in what was called African or Black "townships" they would almost only just speak their tribal languages.

    So only those that received education (the level of education determined by your race) were able to somehow speak both Afrikaans and English. Those of Dutch origin called "White Afrikaaners" spoke Afrikaans fluently and were very proud of it. Those whites of British descent would speak English only.

    Now, with the dismantling of the Apartheid regime the number of official languages became eleven (see link). So now, South Africans were no more obliged to learn Afrikaans in schools. Even though Afrikaans was regarded as the language of Apartheid and the oppressed masses refused to give it any recognition despite it being forced on them in schools, it has become part of the eleven official languages, and is less seen as the language of Apartheid nowadays as many of the current Afrikaaner population have given their full support to develop South Africa as part of South Africa's rainbow population.

    Afrikaans is still being spoken by many Coloureds, Indians some of the native African population, and all Afrikaaners, and as long as these people live and continue to pass it on to the subsequent generations, Afrikaans will continue to be alive. It is true that Afrikaans is not spoken as widely as before, and many people prefer to speak English to their kids rather than Afrikaans, but as long as the Afrikaaners populate and their numbers increase it will continue to be spoken in SA for a long time. Also, the Afrikaans literary heritage is inextricably tied in with the Afrikaaner cultural past which was one of racial segregation and discrimination which does make it a great incentive for non-Afrikaaners to want to learn it or even take it further from the mere spoken level.


    Senior Member
    Boarisch, Österreich (Austria)
    Hello Abu Bishr,

    I followed the link to find that information about Abubakr Effendi and his texts beeing an important document of early Afrikaans. Do you know of any website where I could see a faksimile of that? I've never seen any Germanic language written in Arabic letters (except myself practicing the letters by transcribing German when I started to learn Arabic). Is the text vocalized?
    Thank you ahead.

    Abu Bishr

    Senior Member
    Afrikaans, South Africa
    Hi Beclija

    I personally know some of the descendants of Abubakr Effendi, and they hold his book, the Bayaan al-Din in high esteem. This book of his is freely available in South Africa, and has been translated into English side-by-side with the Arabic script. There are also numerous other works in Cape Town that were written in the same style of which my family have in their possession. I remember having browsed through some myself. No one, however, is writing like that anymore because of Afrikaans being written now using Latin script. So it only exists in manuscript form nowadays. Someone that was very popular for using that writing style was an Azharite graduate by the name of Ismail Hanif, most of whose works are still extant. In fact, he even got an Egyptian publishing house to typeset and publish one or a couple of his books, but this was a long time ago.

    Anyhow, I'll check if I can find websites that give samples of that style of writing, and maybe even samples from Abubakr's work.
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