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One thing Maties are still allowed to do in Afrikaans is dream

Just as Henry Ford ruled you could have any colour Model T so long as it was black, so you can speak any language you like at Stellenbosch University so long as it’s English.

But hey, who am I, an old Ikey, to poke my nose into the Eikestad’s raging debate?

Perhaps I may, with my wife’s approval. She was a Matie in 19 voertsek, majoring in liggaamlike opvoeding. Two of her four children also graduated at Stellenbosch. And my only two cousins, albei Engelssprekend, got their first, second and third degrees at Stellenbosch before going on to earn doctorates in their respective fields, physics and educational psychology.

John Scott

All their lectures were in Afrikaans. They went to Stellenbosch knowing that the university was a bastion of the Afrikaans language. They were the richer for it.

But now apparently you have to be on your guard when you open your mouth in case you suffer a slip of the tongue and Afrikaans emerges.

As Lieutenant Cable sang in South Pacific, “You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught”. In English, naturally.

Even in the koshuise you can’t praat with your mates if there is a third person present unable to understand exactly what you are saying. If your parents phone you, tell them they are free to speak Afrikaans so long as they don’t mind your answering in English. But order them to keep their voices low, and on no account put them on speaker phone.

If students are really desper­ate to speak their home lan­guage, they can sneak behind the toilets, as schoolboys did in my day when they wanted to smoke.

There is to be no singing of Afrikaans liedjies in the hostels, either. When my daughters were homesick many years ago in England where I was work­ing, they would sing Afrikaans songs to cheer themselves up. Unlike the Stellenbosch authorities, the Brits didn’t seem to mind.

One thing students are still allowed to do is dream in Afrikaans. Not even the rector can stop them from doing that. Which reminds me that the best interjection I ever heard in parliament involved an Afrikaans dream. One or other National Party MP was talking about the government’s dreams for the future when opposition member Horace van Rensburg stopped him in midstream with the comment: “Ag man, hulle is almal Nat drome.”

Whatever the wetness or otherwise of their dreams, Stellenbosch students must remember to translate them into English if they have an urge to recount them.

Praying in Afrikaans at the university is now a risky business. God in His heaven may understand, but at campus level there could be hell to pay. Vry-ing in the taal is also taboo. You never know what eavesdropper may be suffering from incomprehension. “Ek het jou lief” is a no-go. You might try a bit of Mandarin to express the same sentiment. Nobody could claim that “wo ai ni” is breaking the no-Afrikaans rule.

One more restriction. Try not to swear in your home lan­guage. Even I don’t. I picked up a German expletive working in Namibia in my youth, and it still comes to my lips unbidden whenever I unexpectedly injure myself.

I am willing to tell any non-Afrikaans Stellenbosch students what it means in English.

  • johnvscott@mweb.co.za
Meer oor:  John Scott
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