15 October 2019 | Story Rulanzen Martin | Photo Rulanzen Martin
Expert panel
The panellists appointed for a three-year term, are from the left: Gert Coetzee, Adv Henriëtte Murray, Prof Angelique van Niekerk (Head of Department), Liezel Meintjes and Estelle Zwiegers.

A hundred years after Afrikaans was first offered as part of the subject Dutch at the UFS in 1919, the department (the oldest Afrikaans language department in South Africa) appointed a practice panel. The panel consists of experts from the corporate world, namely an advocate, a teacher, a newspaper editor, and a publisher. They all have one thing in common, viz. their linguistic underpinnings and language qualifications, and their general emphasis on the need for language teaching and proficiency (also in Afrikaans) in the professional sector.

On Friday 4 October 2019, the practice panel, including Adv. Henriëtte Murray (senior advocate and acting judge in the Bloemfontein High Court), Gert Coetzee (editor of Volksblad), Estelle Zwiegers (Afrikaans teacher at Fichardt Park High School – subject adviser for the Free State from 2020), and Liezel Meintjes (chief executive officer of SUN MeDIA Bloemfontein) informed senior students and staff about the importance and relevance of language, language proficiency, and vocational demands in terms of language.

The panel was appointed for a term of three years. “We will annually invite the practice panel to the postgraduate meeting with new postgraduate students, as well as to an annual meeting with senior students and staff to reflect on new plans and opportunities for students regarding practice requirements,” says Prof Angelique van Niekerk, Head of the Department of Afrikaans and Dutch, German and French at the UFS. 

Importance of language proficiency

‘The role of language in different professions’ was the topic of the discussion, during which panel members emphasised the importance of language proficiency. Language knowledge and proficiency form the essence of the legal profession. “Language proficiency is crucial to understand words not yet included in legal terminology,” Adv. Murray said. She also stressed that students should acquire the required language knowledge, since the interpretation of words could irrevocably affect people’s lives. Using examples from practice, she also pointed out the importance of teaching language structure (syntax and morphology). 

As much as language proficiency is important in the legal profession, it is naturally also of great importance in journalism. Gert Coetzee, editor of Volksblad, has years of experience in the newspaper industry and considers the skilled ‘wordsmith’ as a great asset to fulfil the watchdog role of the media through a fascinating presentation of facts.  Estelle Zwiegers, an Afrikaans teacher, emphasised the importance of language education at school level, saying that good knowledge and understanding of the way mother tongue is used for communication purposes, is of great value for learners – also at tertiary level. 

With the appointment of this practice panel, the Department of Afrikaans and Dutch, German and French is responding to contextual changes in the tertiary education sector. 

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