A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘afrikaans

[BLOG] Some Saturday links

  • Bad Astronomy notes a push by astronomers to enlist help for giving trans-Neptunian object 2007-OR10 a name.
  • Centauri Dreams reflects on M87*, the supermassive black hole at the heart of M87 recently imaged, with its implications for galactic habitability.
  • Crooked Timber is right to note that Kirstjen Nielsen, architect of the cruel border policies of Trump, should not be allowed to resume a normal professional life.
  • The Crux looks at the Event Horizon Telescope Project that imaged M87*.
  • D-Brief notes that one-quarter of Japanese in their 20s and 30s have remained virgins, and explains why this might be the case.
  • Far Outliers notes the process of the writing of U.S. Grant’s acclaimed memoirs.
  • Mark Graham highlights a BBC documentary, one he contributed to, asking if artificial intelligence will kill global development.
  • Gizmodo explains why the image of black hole M87* does not look exactly like the fictional one from the scientifically-grounded Interstellar.
  • Hornet Stories explains the joys of Hawai’i in fall.
  • io9 notes that the new Deep Space Nine anniversary documentary is scheduled for a one-day theatrical release. (Will it be in Toronto?)
  • JSTOR Daily makes the point that mass enfranchisement is the best way to ensure security for all.
  • Language Hat looks at the kitabs, the books written in Afrikaans using its original Arabic script kept by Cape Malays.
  • Language Log notes, with examples, some of the uses of the words “black” and “evil” in contemporary China.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money makes the point that having a non-octogenarian president is a good idea.
  • Marginal Revolution shares the thoughts of Samir Varma on the new technologies–better computers, faster travel, artificial life–that may change the world in the near future.
  • The NYR Daily explores the subversive fairy tales of 19th century Frenchman Édouard Laboulaye.
  • The Planetary Society Blog notes the sad crash of the Beresheet probe on the surface of the Moon.
  • Drew Rowsome engages with the body of work of out horror writer John Saul.
  • Peter Rukavina maps out where Islanders will be voting, and the distances they will travel, in this month’s election.
  • Starts With A Bang’s Ethan Siegel engages with the possibility that we might be alone. What next? (Myself, I think the idea of humanity as an elder race is fascinating.)
  • Arnold Zwicky looks at the sort of humour that involves ambiguous adverbs.

[NEWS] Five language links: Macedonian, Inuktitut, Afrikaans, Slavic languages, Catalan

  • The Conversation takes a look at the fierce repression faced by the Macedonian language in early 20th century Greece.
  • Creating an Inuktitut word for marijuana is a surprisingly controversial task. The Toronto Star reports.
  • The representation of non-whites in the Afrikaans language community–the majority population of Afrikaans speakers, actually, despite racism–is a continuing issue. The Christian Science Monitor reports.
  • Far Outliers considers the question of just how many different Slavic languages there actually are. Where are boundaries drawn?
  • The Catalan language remains widely spoken by ten million people in Europe, but outside of Catalonia proper–especially in French Roussillon–usage is declining.

[LINK] “South Africa’s shifting language landscape”

Writing in The Daily Maverick, Rebecca Davis has an interesting long essay taking a look at the shifting roles of different languages in South Africa’s long history, and the way in which the differing positions of different languages has had significant real-world effects on the power and status of different groups. Even now, languages of European origin (English, Afrikaans) still predominate over African ones.

The idea that Afrikaans and English are no longer the sole province of white South Africans may makes for a sexy sound bite, but the truth is that this doesn’t represent a major shift in South African language use over the last decade, particularly when it comes to Afrikaans. The results of Census 2001 found that 13,3% of South Africans spoke Afrikaans at home, and by the time Census 2011 rolled around, this figure had risen only fractionally, to 13,5%.

The popularity of English as a home language has grown slightly more significantly, from 8,2% in 2001 to 9,6% in 2011, and this spurt has allowed English to move up a rung in the popularity chart. In 2001, English was tied for the fifth most spoken home language with Setswana, after isiZulu, isiXhosa, Afrikaans and Sepedi. By 2011, English was beating out both Sepedi and Setswana as the fourth most popular home language.

Possibly the more interesting finding, however, is the degree to which English is dominating the South African education system. Of the 12,2 million South African school pupils, just 850,000 (7%) speak English at home. But the SAIRR’s 2012 South Africa Survey, drawing on figures from the Department of Basic Education, found that 7,6 million of them (around 64%) wish to be taught in English. When it comes to Afrikaans, similarly, more pupils want to be taught in the language (11%) than speak it at home (9%), though it lags far behind English as a desired medium of instruction.

[. . . L]anguage has always been a thorny issue in a South African context, and pragmatism of this kind has often not been considered sufficient to swing the debate. For illustration of just how heated these issues can become, South Africans have never had to look further than 16 June 1976, when the spark that lit the tinder box that was the Soweto Riots was the decision taken by the National Party government that Afrikaans should be a compulsory medium of instruction in secondary schools within the Department of Basic Education. That day is a powerful reminder of the significance and centrality of language to national identity.

In South Africa today, English is not just dominant in the education system, but also as the language of power. IsiZulu may be spoken in the greatest number of South African homes, but it is English that is heard in the corridors of power. Parliamentary proceedings are carried out overwhelmingly in English; Hansard, the record of what is said in Parliament, is published in English; and all addresses of national importance – like the state of the nation address, or the annual budget speech – are given in English. This echoes the situation all over post-colonial Africa, where the official language of communication has generally been the language of the former colonial power (mainly English, French of Portuguese), even though knowledge of these languages may be minimal.

There are, of course, consequences to this if the majority of the population is not sufficiently fluent in the language of power. In Language in South Africa: The Role of Language in National Transformation (2002), University of Pretoria linguist Victor Webb makes the point that such languages can become substantial barriers to much of the population accessing their national rights and privileges, and also to accessing the country’s formal economy.

Written by Randy McDonald

May 2, 2013 at 3:01 am

[BRIEF NOTE] On language shifts at universities

  • Over in South Africa, the traditionally Afrikaans-medium Stellenbosch University, David Beresford reports in the Guardian Weekly, is shifting away from its traditions, with bilingual courses taking precedent over Afrikaans-unilingual courses and knowledge of the Afrikaans language no longer being a requirement for graduation. One Afrikaner historian warns that Afrikaans risks being displaced from this major Afrikaans-language institution.
  • Here in Canada, a vote at the University of Ottawa to relax requirements for English/French bilingualism for job applicants has failed, pleasing advocates for said bilingualism, and displeasing union representatives and international students who often lack this bilingualism (and it isn’t English that’s the problematic language, rest assured).

Ottawa’s a fairly straightforward case, in my humble opinion: if an institution of higher education, or any institution, for that matter, wants to be truly bilingual or multilingual, it’s going to have to ensure that the people and departments who work at the institution are fluent in the languages given recognition. It’s a no-brainer. What’s happening at Stellenbosch University isn’t nearly as clear-cut as what’s going on at the University of Ottawa, mind, since it looks like Stellenbosch is moving towards the enfranchisement of more than one language that was being threatened in Ottawa, which–it must be noted–has staked its reputation domestically on its bilingualism and is a major Franco-Ontarian institution. Complaining that posts aren’t open to people because they lack a necessary skill is silly uniformly, whether because the lack is a necessary degree or a necessary language.

Written by Randy McDonald

November 17, 2009 at 11:12 am