Because a hond barks, Meneer!

Dana Snyman, Beeld, 17 November 2011

What is it with you English speaking South Africans, hey? Or some of you at least.

Why can you only speak English?

You and you parents and grandparents were born in this country, you grew up here, you went to school here, you live a good life here. But you still refuse to learn – or speak – any other language than English. No Afrikaans, no Xhosa, no Zulu – nothing!

There are a lot of you that is like that. In Natal and in Durban, but also in Cape Town and Johannesburg and other places. And then we, the Afrikaners or the Zoeloes or the Xhosas, must abandon our own language for the moment, and speak English to you. And then some of you even make jokes about it. Right?

Nearly every day there is some Eng­lish-speaking radio personality on Cape Talk or KFM or Highveld Stereo or Radio 5 busy making fun of the way we, the other citizens of this country, speak English.

What is so funny about a Afrikaans person that says “hêve” instead of “have”, or “hênd” instead of “hand”? Like Naas Botha when he says: “Well, Dêrryl ôn the one hênd … ”

At first you eentalige South Africans mainly made fun of the way us Afrikaners speak The Language. But now you start with the black people as well. Is it really funny when a Zulu person says “wôk” instead of “work”, or when a Xhosa says “pea-poel” instead of “people”? Or when some politician talks about “white tendencies”?

Have you ever heard a Afrikaans or a Zulu or a Xhosa person making jokes on the radio about the way you
Eng­lish South Africans speak Afrikaans oor Zoeloe? It doesn’t happen – nie sommer nie. Aikôna.

What happens mostly is: We, the non-English speakers, nearly always switches over to English when one of you is in the conversation. If there are perhaps 20 people in a meeting, and
five or six of them is English, that meeting will probably be held in Eng­lish.

I can sit on my own stoep with my Afrikaans friends, and when a English speaking person comes into the conversation, we slaan bollemakiesie and start talking English. We sometimes even start talking English to each other as well when there is a English individual around. And maybe it’s good manners. But wouldn’t it be the best manners if the English person says: “No, prôt mar Ofrikaans. I want to probeer to learn the taal.”

But it rarely happens. You even pronounces indigenous South African names in our own English way, as if it is the correct way. Take for instance the word “kloof”. Kloof is not a original English word. But you pronounce it: “Kloef”. Even on the TV the news readers talk about “kloef”. And “fontien”, like in Bloemfon-tien. It’s not fontien, it’s fontein.

Don’t you think it is a little bit arrogant of you?

There a millions of people in this country that don’t grow up with Eng­lish, especially in rural areas and the platteland. The first time they really hear English is when they went to school. A couple of months ago I went to Nkandla, the village in KwaZulu where president Zuma grew up, and still has a, well, series of houses. And nearly nobody there was able to speak English with me. They all only knew Zulu.

I grew up in the Northern Cape, and in primary school our teacher, Mr Van der Merwe, was struggling with Eng-lish as well. He was speaking mainly Afrikaans while he was busy trying to teach us English. In class he would ask something like: “Klas, wat is die geluid wat ’n hond maak?” Then we all  answered: “ ’n Hond barks, Meneer!”

I am sorry to say, but some of you English-speaking South Africans seems to think that there is only one official language in the country:
Eng­lish. What colonial tendencies is this with you people, hey?

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