Thursday, 24 January 2013

I are actually Afrikaans

I are actually Afrikaans
24 January 2013

It’s confession time.  Time to be honest and upfront…..I’m actually Afrikaans.

Yes, indeed it’s true.  I am not telling you one word of a lie.  My mother tongue is really Afrikaans, even though my mother is technically English.  Go figure!

I did my twelve years of schooling, as well as my three years at Varsity (Maties!!!) in Afrikaans.  We were raised bilingually and were fluent in English from a young age, but still our first language was Afrikaans.  My parents were “Mamma” and “Pappa”. 

And then somehow or other, we morphed more into English.  Perhaps it started when I met Grant at the beginning of my matric year.  Clearly my English was way better than his Afrikaans.  And thus, English is our language together.  And then slowly but surely, I started speaking to my folks more in English than in Afrikaans.  So that Grant would better understand.  And therefore my parents became “Mommy” and “Daddy”.

Though to this day, the three Loubser siblings all speak Afrikaans to each other.  It is something that is so automatic, that I am not even aware of the switch over between languages.  In fact, I wasn’t even aware of what language we spoke in, until Grant pointed it out to me.  Katrine and I speak English to our Mom and Albert speaks more Afrikaans.  Katrine and I are raising English kids and Albert’s again are Afrikaans.

By many people, Afrikaans is seen as a backward Boere language.  And her people too.  Afrikaans people are looked down upon.  Generally regarded by some as being not as clever.  Your more slightly thick rugby playing, koeksister making, ever so less glamorous, less refined and less sophisticated people than their English counterparts.  But here is the thing – Afrikaans is in fact a wonderful language.  And so too are her people.  Few other languages have better and more expressive swear words.  We all know this to be true.  In general Afrikaans people have very strong family values, have a very healthy respect for authority and enforcing that authority as parents.  They are perhaps tougher and simply get on with stuff.  Less touchy feely even.

As an Afrikaans speaking person in a predominantly English country (I say this respectfully, because we have eleven official languages in sunny SA – nine of those African – yet English is most commonly understood by all), it is rather easy to pick up the English language.  Most people speak it.  It is the first language of many people, yet the second language of most.  Signage is in English.  Most schooling as well.  The best programmes on TV too.  The same goes for books, menu’s in restaurants, pamphlets, the lot.

I give you this background for one simple reason.  I do not write my blog in my first language.  I apologise for any grammatical and spelling mistakes.  My Oxford Dictionary within reach of my desk is my favourite book.  My vocabulary and range of wording is perhaps not so vast and great.  I have a few favourite words and phrases that I use far too often.  Yet I love them.  Few words are as utterly fabulous, as FABULOUS.  For my 40th Birthday, my Twisted Sista’s bought me a humongous big birthday card, and every single one of them made a point of using the word “fabulous” in their personal birthday wish to me.   And though I never, ever use my dictionary to find a word, because I always have the word in my head and know it’s true meaning, I do like to check the spelling.  My internal built-in spell checker, which I was lucky enough to be born with, is remarkably and blessedly accurate, but some things I do know that I get wrong.  The irony of course is the fact that my mother is/was/were an English teacher.  The night before every single English exam I ever wrote, I asked her to explain parts of speech to me once more.  My punctuation is sometimes a bit off too.  I am generous with comma’s and I’ve got a bit of a grey area when it comes to apostrophe’s of the “its” and “it’s” variety.  Also when the end point is with punctuation when I’m quoting or emphasizing something with “”.  In fact – a huge grey area.  I thank you for plodding through it with me.  I strive to be better, and take care and caution to get it correct as much as possible.  If you go looking for it, then there are alarming stats out there on the grammatical, spelling and punctuation errors on blogs out there.  And I would hate to form part of a bad statistic.

For the most part, I now think in English.  However, maths I simply can’t do in anything other than Afrikaans.  I know my times tables in Afrikaans and certain school terminology too.  My kids come to me sometimes with homework for certain subjects like Science, Geography, etc. and I really have to concentrate.

Annoying though some might find it though, few things are as charming and sweet as an Afrikaans person speaking English with a very strong accent.  The same goes for someone with an African first language.  Because apart from the pronunciation, their accent on certain parts of words, their grammar is priceless too.  I respect them for speaking in a different language.  In many countries in the world, only one language is taught.  Being fluent or even only partly fluent in more than one language is a fantastic asset.  Afrikaans links up with German, Dutch and Flemish.  And quite often if someone speaks in one of those languages, it is easy to pick up the gist of what they’re talking about.  Even if you only catch a word or two.

And thus, it is not uncommon for an African person to speak about “kittagiries” instead of categories.  And as for those blessedly Afrikaans like me?  Some of them speak most delicious English.  They is very good at it.  They tries their best.  It are a pleasure for them to spoke English.  And they can be liking to teach their childrens too.  A jean-pant are their favourite stuffs to wear.  Ja-nee! 

We do these silly things.  I should know.  Every day I go to the shops to buy a bread.  Because in Afrikaans “koop ek ‘n brood”.  Grant gleefully corrects me and giggles each time.  So, maybe just for today, I will go to the shops to buy a LOAF of bread.  But I wouldn’t bet on it.

I would like to include one of my very favourite audio clips ever.  A rip-off done of the Afrikaans language by SA radio’s favourite prankster and funny man Wackhead Simpson.

This still makes me smile.

Big up to Griffin and his buddy Chopper from Wat Kyk Jy? And his fabulous "Tos" book - too funny for words. Respek meneer. Groot respek. He explains Afrikaans and Afrikaner-isms as well as South African-isms  most beautifully. A must have for sure.


  1. Mooi man. I had no love or respect for Afrikaans until I read "Fiela se Kind" about 25 years ago. Since then I love to gooi the taal whenever possible, as I find it a really delicious language!

  2. I are in the same boat as you. Been speaking English at home for the past ten years - I worked in Nigeria for four years. After that I lived in Jo'burg when the wife and I got together. She are English. And now we're back in Pretoria where her Afrikaans will pick up drastically.

    PS: Shot for gooing my book in the mix!