Sep 6, 2012

Languages and the law

The role of the law in protecting or promoting language is limited. A love for culture cannot be imposed. Culture comes from the heart, from the gut. If Afrikaans is becoming irrelevant it is not because of the law only – it is because the Afrikaans-speaking population is losing heart or losing its heart. To illustrate: Some years ago a new law library was opened at a former Afrikaans university. All of the speakers, from the Principal to the Dean were Afrikaans. They spoke English. The only speaker who used Afrikaans was Mr Mbeki, then the President. He hardly qualifies as Afrikaans. 
The poet NP van Wyk Louw wrote in 1959: ‘Dit wat ons taal sal word, of oor wat van hom sal word, kan ons nie praat nie – behalwe met hartstogtelike verlange’ (Van Wyk Louw, ‘Laat ons nie roem nie,’ in Versamelde Prosa II p 181). (We cannot speak about what our language will become; and we cannot speak about what will become of our language – except with a passionate yearning. My translation.)

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