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Afrikaans speakers should think differently, says Coenie de Villiers
2016-06-08

Description: Coenie de Villiers Tags: Coenie de Villiers

Coenie de Villiers was the speaker at the DF Malherbe
Memorial Lecture, held in the Equitas Building on the
University of the Free State Bloemfontein Campus on
24 May 2016.
Photo: Stephen Collett

Do not ask what can be done for your language, but what your language can do for others. With this adaptation of the late John F. Kennedy’s famous words, Coenie de Villiers stressed that the onus for the survival of their language rests with Afrikaans speakers.

According to the television presenter and singer, the real empowerment of Afrikaans does not necessarily take place in parliament. He was the speaker at the DF Malherbe Memorial Lecture, presented in the Equitas Building on the University of the Free State Bloemfontein Campus on 24 May 2016. The lecture by De Villiers, a UFS alumnus, was titled Is Afrikaans plesierig? ’n Aweregse blik.

Government not the only scapegoat
He used Kennedy’s famous phrase, Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country, as framework. “I believe that, if we reverse our sights and do not ask what the world can do for Afrikaans, but ask for a change what Afrikaans – and in particular each and every user thereof – can do for others, then we have, in good English terms, ‘a fighting chance’ that Afrikaans will not only survive, but that it will thrive.” He said it would be too easy to just blame the government’s language policy and/or its lack of application for the language’s uncertainties.

Speakers should act correctly
He said the actions of speakers, sometimes motivated by a love for the language, often causes more damage. “It is not the language that should squirm under the microscope. It isn’t Afrikaans that is being tested: it is us, the speakers, writers, thinkers, doers, and tweeters of the language that are being measured.”
De Villiers believes one should stand up for your language without hesitation or fear, but not necessarily in the middle of the road, and never in such a way that you abandon the moral compass of humanity.

Language will live on

He told the audience that Afrikaans speakers should maintain their language every day with the merit, humanity, and respect that they believe the language – and they themselves – deserve. The language will “live on as long as we use it to laugh, and talk, and sing, and do not kill it off with rules and directives.”

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