Now my bitch is aimed directly at those immigrants who come into South Africa from various European countries (for this dissertation let’s just say they came from Serbia, although it may as well be any other country, I’m not thinking of country specifically! J) and even after being in the country for more than 20 years they still do not want to assimilate with the rest of the population. They have their own circle of friends, own churches (not that many of them attend anymore), own social clubs.
On the odd occasion that we have visited there for family responsibility reasons, they speak to each other in their mother tongue, without any consideration for their English or Afrikaans speaking visitors.
What irks me the most is that most of them fled their original countries due to various reasons and came to South Africa to start a new life amongst the local population. They arrived with nothing more than what they carried in a suitcase and accepted help from either English or Afrikaans speaking South African who helped with jobs and training. Those who had children of school going ages ended up sending them English speaking schools as they could in most cases speak a smattering of English. It is conveniently forgotten that their education was paid for by both English and Afrikaans taxes.
During all the years that they have been in the country they want to create the impression that they don’t understand any Afrikaans at all. Through the years they seem to have perfected this blank almost catatonic look the minute any Afrikaans is spoken in their presence. When they are addressed in Afrikaans they just pull up their shoulders and give this sheepish smile (sneer?) and in a well cultivated apologetic accent say something to the effect of “Jammer, but I does not speaks Afrikaans”. Now as far as I’m concerned all these visitors to our country had to learn to speak Afrikaans at school, as in those years it was the second official language and we were forced to learn it if we wanted to pass. Suddenly when school and further learning is behind them, they seem to all have gone for a lobotomy which resulted in Afrikaans now becoming an alien language to which they have never been exposed!
When these very people have been invited to mix and speak with people who have Afrikaans as a home language, they seem to get this very self-righteous attitude and say “I would rather not waste my time trying to speak this kitchen Dutch!” Now please understand that I am very slow to anger, but here my blood rapidly approaches boiling point in a very short period of time. Not even in my days spent in uniform doing the best to keep myself alive (which I obviously managed well enough) have I felt this anger building up inside of me.
I really felt like trying to explain that many, many years ago when the Dutch first arrived here in South Africa they spoke a variety of dialects of Dutch even though they came from the same country. In keeping with languages all over the world, people adapt a language to suit the circumstances and environment that they find themselves in. At the same time the French and English showed an interest in South Africa thus bringing their own languages to add to the caldron that would finally give birth to Afrikaans as an official language. So even if Afrikaans did evolve from people sitting around the kitchen table talking to each other , as good friend seem to do in our household, I see no reason for these non-Afrikaans speaking immigrants (who cling to their foreign passports tighter than a burr to a horse blanket) to use the term of “kitchen Dutch” in a decoratively manner. I had to learn to speak Afrikaans when I was of school going age, and over the years have learnt to love the language. Today I don’t think in terms of being either English or Afrikaans and think of myself as being a South African. My one regret, is that I never learnt to speak one of the local Black languages fluently which would have been the ideal situation for those of us living here in South Africa.
So to all those folk out there who don’t want to speak Afrikaans or don’t understand it for whatever reason after all these years of being in the country:
Mag jou arms korter word, en mag die vlooie van ‘n duisend honde en katte jou privaat dele investeer!
Seeing as they won’t understand that, I suppose they can’t take exception to it ! 🙂
And by the way – I’m actually English speaking