Professor Daan Goosen: ‘The language monument is under fire’

In South Africa, there has been a lot of noise about the ANC government’s plans to ‘tap’ the African language monument in Paarl. Luc Pauwels spoke about this with Prof. Daan Goosen, chairman of the umbrella association Federation of African Culture Associations (FAK). Afrikaans: from kitchen language to scientific language Like Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, Paarl is one of the most visited places for Flemings traveling to South Africa. And then the African language monument is firmly on the agenda. What is the meaning and the story …

In South Africa, there has been a lot of noise about the ANC government’s plans to ‘tap’ the African language monument in Paarl. Luc Pauwels talked about this with Professor Daan Goosen, chairman of the umbrella organization The Association of African Cultural Associations (FAK).

Afrikaans: from kitchen language to scientific language

Like Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, Paarl is one of the most visited places for Flemings traveling to South Africa. And then the African language monument is firmly on the agenda. What is the significance and history of this monument?

‘It’s basically remembered African language monument (ATM) “the miracle of the African”. Why a miracle? The answer lies in the fact that Afrikaans is one of only four languages ​​in the world that has evolved from a so-called “kitchen language” to a “scientific” language in the twentieth century. The other languages ​​are Malay, Hindi and Hebrew. ‘

“Historically, Afrikaans has” branched out “from Dutch relatively recently and has become its own full-fledged language. Afrikaans was standardized in the first decades of the twentieth century. Generally accepted language rules and standards were then established for the use of good Afrikaans. ‘Although it sounds almost counter-intuitive, it has been accompanied by an unprecedented flourishing of Afrikaans in literature, the sciences, the state and the economy, among others. In fact, the African language monument celebrates this fact.’

The ‘ATM’ was unveiled in 1975. For African speakers, this is a symbolic date. Fifty years earlier (1925), Afrikaans had become an official national language. One hundred years earlier (in 1875) in Paarl the Society for Real Afrikaners (GRA) established. This organization took the first important steps in the development of Afrikaans. To emphasize the natives of the new language, GRA chose to use the name “Afrikaans” instead of “Cape Dutch”

I know of no other monument erected in honor of a language. In that sense, it’s definitely unique, right?

‘In addition to the African language monument, there are other language monuments around the world. And in South Africa, in addition to the ATM, there are several other monuments that honor Afrikaans as a language. The oldest language monument is in Burgersdorp in the Eastern Cape. This monument was erected in 1893 in memory of the “Dutch language”. The numerous monuments testify to the passion that people used to see in Afrikaans. And so it is still considered by a significant group of African speakers. ‘

Via ‘inclusivity’ to strict monolingualism

Is it the government or the ANC that wants this monument gone? Or not away, but ‘change your mind’ …

“The ANC government proposes, through Nathi Mthethwa, Minister of Culture and Sport, to speak African to be deleted from the name of the African Language Monument. According to Mthethwa, the monument is not “inclusive” enough. ‘

‘African speakers have already reacted negatively to the proposal in large numbers. “But was not the African language monument specifically erected to pay homage to Afrikaans?” is the obvious question on the lips of many African speakers. ‘

What is FAK’s position on this?

The Federation of African Culture Associations believes that true democracy should be built on the principle of mutual recognition between the various language and cultural communities. With their proposal, Mthethwa and the ANC government show little understanding of this. Under the guise of spaciousness, one tries to impose on everyone a strict monolingualism. ‘

Some of the pillars of the African Language Monument in Paarl.

»According to FAK, Afrikaans as a living cultural treasure is a huge example for other language communities of how to develop their own mother tongue at the highest level. The ANC proposal not only harms Afrikaans, but also implicitly harms other languages ​​(Zulu, Xhosa, etc.) – not just “symbolically”, but also “economically”. ‘

‘The argument that ATM promotes an exclusive agenda does not hold. It is clear from the architectural design of the African language monument that it recognizes and celebrates the inclusive character of Afrikaans. Through various ‘pillars’ in the monument, it is widely acknowledged that Afrikaans not only comes from Dutch, but has been influenced by different languages. According to FAK, the government should rather help the other language communities to expand their own language heritage as well. ‘

Cultural suicide as a victim of peace

Should we see this as an ‘awake’ aggression?

“The ANC government is probably one of the most ‘awake’ governments in the world. According to its view of history, the so-called West is just evil, while the Rest is immaculate and good. According to the “awakened” history, before the so-called colonial era, Africa was a paradise for peace, equality and prosperity! Colonialism meant only destruction. ‘

One consequence of this is that a cultural community such as that of Africans is repeatedly forced to justify its mere existence to the new judiciary by over-moral norms. But because the Africans, according to the “awake” view, represent the colonial era, their evil is of a systemic nature. Their “sin” can never be forgiven. Forgiveness in the sense in which Hannah Arendt uses it (forgiveness makes new political facts possible) is thus also absent in “awake” ideologues. According to the radical wing of the “wokists”, only a final self-absorption of the Africans, a cultural suicide, will be enough to eradicate their sins.

“Of course, one of the many irony involved is that the same ‘awake’ government is also one of the most corrupt governments in the world. Hardly a day goes by without new corruption scandals and the ruthless looting of this country. ‘infrastructure and economic resources are coming to light. In South Africa, the’ awake ‘revolution is an empty revolution.’

Congestion leads to vitality

What is the current situation with the African language in education, administration and public life?

“It is well known that the situation of Africans has worsened since 1994 under the ANC regime, including in the civil service, universities and the economy. Strict monolingualism has become the norm. ‘

“Yet the paradoxical situation that characterizes Africans today must be emphasized. Despite (or because of) the enormous pressure to which Afrikaans is exposed, our mother tongue shows a special vitality in many respects at the same time.

»The latter is evident, among other things, from the fact that Afrikaans still enjoys great support among Afrikaans speakers; from the large number of literary works published in Afrikaans; from the lives of the African media; the significant number of African schools (both public and private) doing better than other schools in the country; the vitality of pro-African organizations such as The solidarity movement and in particular movement member organizations such as AfriForum (a civil rights movement with more than 300,000 members), Helping hand (a powerful social organization) and FAK; as well as the astonishing growth that African private higher education institutions such as Academy (a young and emerging African university) and Sol-Tech (a successful African technical school). ‘

‘Africa’s contemporary results are increasingly based on the following principle: What the state does not support, society itself does. In short, the African crisis is also seen by many African speakers as a great historical opportunity for “independent community action”. Our language future is not clear. Thanks for the chance!

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