“I think Afrikaans is an example of what can be done with an indigenous language. It started as a kitchen language and finally progressed to a university language with higher functions, which in itself is a remarkable milestone.
“The most important aspect of Afrikaans’ centenary celebration is indeed that the language community must put its hand in its own bosom and ask how the history of yesterday, today and the future can be brought together.”
This is what Michael Jonas, vice-chairman of the Afrikaans 100 review committee and director of the Afrikaans Language Museum, told Rhewal on Monday.
Afrikaans celebrates its 100th year as an official language on 8 May 2025. That is why the Afrikaans 100 review committee was established to help launch initiatives to celebrate this great occasion.
Plans to celebrate Afrikaans’ centenary were officially announced last week at the Kleinkaap boutique hotel in Centurion.
According to dr. Theuns Eloff, chairman of the Afrikaans 100 review committee, wants to help this campaign to raise awareness about the rich and varied history of Afrikaans among ordinary people.
“One of the most important milestones is the development of Afrikaans as a good teaching language. The message that can be read in this is that mother tongue education is of crucial importance.
“When we share this with other indigenous languages, we can tell them: ‘If you want your languages to have the same richness as Afrikaans in 100 years, then mother tongue education is important.’
Eloff goes on to say that education is the foundation of any language. “I believe that if a language does not have an education pipeline, then at some point that language will be used in a limited way. I’m not saying the language is going to die out, but it can at most be a conversational language.”
When talking about the diversity within Afrikaans, the diversity of speakers and language variation comes into play.
“When I look at diversity in the language, I look at different dialects. I am referring to Arabic and Muslim Afrikaans, and to language variants such as East Border, Orange River and Gariep Afrikaans.
“It partly represents the diverse African landscape. From this nuanced landscape there is so much potential for Afrikaans to be celebrated in all its guises,” says Jonas.
In his speech, he also looked back at the origin of Afrikaans and pointed out that there are diverse and often conflicting opinions and theories when it comes to the origin of Afrikaans.
“The origin and development of Afrikaans dates back to 1595 due to communication and contact between local residents, seafarers and slaves from the East, together with language influence, contact and disturbance.
“Although this period is often referred to as the first period in the history of Afrikaans, it is 8 May 1925 that will be remembered and commemorated. It is considered one of the monumental milestones in the history of this relatively young African language.”
On that date, Afrikaans was accepted by the South African Official Languages Act, Act 8 of 1925, in the then parliament, alongside English, as an official language. Since then, the language has faced various political and economic challenges, including factors that threaten the language’s high functions.
Because there are so many views on Afrikaans, the Afrikaans 100 review committee compiled a manifesto that was accepted by all the participating organizations.
The campaign’s main elements consist, among other things, of future orientation and constructive contributions to the South African community, a coordinated effort to celebrate 100 years with positive sentiments and showcase the value of Afrikaans in the South African community. The celebration must take place in numerous areas and by all organisations, and give access to a uniform, positive festival campaign and identity in the form of a logo that can be used together with the institution’s own corporate identity.
“A lot is already being done to promote unity within the language, but I think we can do even more. This campaign will help a lot to create a sense of togetherness, pride and joy about Afrikaans,” says Eloff in conclusion.
Any inquiries about the Afrikaans 100 celebrations can be directed to Merlyn van der Rheede at [email protected].
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