Please allow me to express my views on the unchallenged popularity and dominance of Afrikaans as a language in Namibia and its somewhat superfluous potential of becoming an official language in the not too distant future, if left unchecked.
The other day in Omaruru a fellow cyclist was spoken to in Afrikaans and he replied, “English only.” To which the white folk (no discrimination) poked back with a question, “Are you Namibian?” I frowned at this and asked myself does Namibian mean I should speak Afrikaans?
I mean especially if I am a born free, born in north-eastern Namibia where we rarely converse in Afrikaans, it’s just not possible.
Nowadays you can go or call an office in Windhoek or anywhere in the south and they will greet you in Afrikaans, which makes me ask, is Afrikaans now our second official language in the land of the brave?
I googled it up looking at its origin and I stumbled on this – Afrikaans is one of the official languages of South Africa. It is a West Germanic language spoken in South Africa, Namibia, and to a lesser extent, Botswana and Zimbabwe.
It is an offshoot of several Dutch dialects spoken by the mainly Dutch settlers of what is now South Africa, where it gradually began to develop independently in the course of the 18th century. Hence, historically, it is a daughter language of Dutch, and was previously referred to as “Cape Dutch” (a term also used to refer collectively to the early Cape settlers) or “kitchen Dutch” (a derogatory term used to refer to Afrikaans in its earlier days). It is the first language of most of the Afrikaner people.
In Namibia, Afrikaans is widely spoken as a second language and used as lingua franca, while as a native language it is spoken in 11% of households, mainly concentrated in the capital Windhoek and the southern regions of Hardap and //Karas. It is no longer considered an “official language” of Namibia, but rather a recognized regional language; in 1990, 25% of the population of Windhoek spoke Afrikaans at home.
I had a chance to visit South Africa where I believe we acquired the Afrikaans language and I was impressed. They hardly speak this language with many associating it with colonialism and it is thus shunned. Manny embrace their native languages and thus converse in them.
I mean Namibians and South Africans naturally copy each other, for instance when South Africans demanded the removal of colonial statues, back at home Namibian chipped in doing the same but yet they did nothing about Afrikaans.
It’s widely known that the majority of Namibians speak Oshiwambo, but I would not be in any office to receive a call and speak back in Oshiwambo in an independent Namibia.
Neither would I speak to somebody in a public area or office in Oshiwambo for I know our official language was declared English at independence. It’s really not a case of picking on a certain group or race, but I strongly feel it’s a shame that we still honor our colonisers through speaking their language, having their religion and living their lifestyle.
In South Africa, indigenous South Africans embrace their native languages – they would even greet you in Xhosa as long as you are black assuming that you know. I don’t blame them, as my color could mean my language is African.
The is no harm in an Afrikaner freely expressing himself or herself in Afrikaans but all I’m saying is that as Namibians embracing the notion of reconciliation, we should respect each other and be proud to be associated with fellow Namibians despite their past, thus I therefore feel we should not be forced to speak non-native languages, nor should it be seen as a taboo if I can’t speak English or Afrikaans.