South Africa: Fears for Afrikaans over Maties review

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Wed May 24 13:45:42 UTC 2006

Fears for Afrikaans over Maties review

By Sivuyile Mangxamba

Stellenbosch University is preparing to table its "conceptual framework"
on language policy next month amid fears that some forces are trying to
turn the traditionally Afrikaans institution into an English campus.
"There is a suspicion that we have a plan to turn the university into an
English university and that we are looking for English-speaking students
to do this," said Stellenbosch University language spokesman for the task
group reviewing the language policy, Professor Russel Botman. "On both
issues they are wrong," said Botman as the task team prepared to table its
conceptual framework on the language policy revision next month.  The
final draft is expected to be adopted at the university council meeting in

The language policy seeks to accommodate English in an institution that
has "a special commitment to Afrikaans" by offering some courses in
English while keeping Afrikaans as a dominant language. Stellenbosch
University rector Chris Brink assigned Botman and Professor Leon de
Stadler early this year to head up a task team for the revision of
language policy. The issue facing the team was how the institution works
with language in a diverse environment, said Botman.

This grates proponents of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction, who
believe that the introduction of English would suffocate Afrikaans and
open the inevitable path that could see the demise of Afrikaans at the
university. "There is no case of a successful dual-medium instruction in
the world and even those that tried to do that - the University of the
Western Cape and the former University of Port Elizabeth - quickly became
English institutions," a well-placed source said. "It would be a great
loss to language diversity if Afrikaans were to disappear," the source
said. For Botman, there is space for English in this Afrikaans-dominated

They were trying to solve the "extremely complicated problem of
reconciling diversity and 'Afrikaansness' on our campus ... in a way that
provides Afrikaans with a sustainable living space," he added. The
language policy could not be exclusively for Afrikaners when coloured
Afrikaans-speakers were left out.

sivuyilem at

 Published on the web by Cape Argus on May 23, 2006.

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