Is English the next foreign language to get the boot?

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How would you like to get involved in the debate about which languages spoken in this country are foreign? It would probably be better handled by language academics and historians.

But isn’t it wonderful to at least informally explore the languages of a multilingual society? More or less, take a look at it for a purpose which Horace ascribes to poets in his Ars Poetica (verse 333: Aut prodesse volunt aut delectare poetae (“to instruct and to delight” or to “please and educate”).

It is interesting that some would have Afrikaans as a language excluded from certain quarters. Very interesting.

Not being a historian but with an interest in the past one wonders about the origins of Afrikaans. It’s a language only spoken in this country. By millions of people. It’s certainly not Dutch. Try to speak Afrikaans in the Netherlands.

The origins of Afrikaans come from Dutch, that is true. But it you dig deeper you will discover that Afrikaans came from the people in new communities that were being formed centuries ago in this country. It was a brand-new language separate from other languages.

An Afrikaans word such as veldskoen was first used in 1731 (A Dictionary of South African English. Branford. 1478 to 1978. Oxford). But we mustn’t forget that one of the oldest words in the country is dagga (1670). Not from Dutch from a local language.

English was introduced by the British whose Cape Colony was the worst performer out of all the Empire’s colonies. But the British interest in the country changed with the discovery of mineral wealth (Kimberly, Johannesburg). Interesting too that the British left most existing town names unchanged but adding many of their own.

Is English a foreign language in this country? Of course, it is but with nuances. South African English. That’s another matter. Try speak to a UK citizen in your South African English. Both parties will have a hard time recognising and understanding words.

South Africa like the United States, Australia and New Zealand have formed their own spoken and written English to adapt to local circumstances. In the United States the dictionary writers deliberately changed English to make customise it to local communities. That’s why you find shorter and different spellings to British English. For example, Fall for Autumn, cab for taxi and color for colour.

Nine of the country’s official languages fall into the Southern Bantu-Makua subfamily, part of the broad and branching Niger-Congo family of languages. The languages arrived during the expansion of Bantu-speaking people from West Africa eastwards and southwards into the rest of the continent. (Source:

Instead of attacking languages because of their origins, wouldn’t it be more fruitful to cherish the languages that are spoken in a country? English is spoken in many countries, has become a global language and the main language of business around the world. It makes one think of English as a giant sponge taking up words from all over. Star Trek. Interesting word “trek”. Its earliest use was in about 1833 (Merriam-Webster puts the first known use of trek as 1835). Trek is now a global word in English.

Languages can be suppressed but ultimately people in communities sharing and communicating with each other will decide what languages are used and what are not.

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