The Language post

When I arrived home last night there was a note in Daniel’s school book asking us to please make an appointment to see the teacher.  I hate those notes, I really do.  They send me into complete worst-case scenario mode.  By this morning I was ready to take Daniel out of the school because the teacher had (wrongly) insisted he had some terrible learning disability and wanted to put him on drugs.  All fabricated and in my head.

But, I puckered up, sucked it in and went off to the school to see if I could grab the teacher first thing so I don’t spend my day looking for child psychologists and other schools just for incase.

You might recall my angst-ridden (I can hear you gasp in shock there.  What?  ME?  Angst-ridden?) posts late last year about whether to put Daniel in an English or Afrikaans class and how, short of whacking me on the head, Etienne finally managed to put things into context for me and we decided to put Daniel in the Afrikaans class.

We weren’t worried as the majority of our friends and his BFF are English, so he would still have plenty of exposure to English.

At the end of the first term Daniel’s teacher expressed a little concern over the fact that he was mixing so many English words into his sentences and so we have been correcting him at home whenever he does it.  But we do know that he almost thinks in English and then directly translates into Afrikaans, which means that the construction of his sentences gets muddled.

Today the teacher expressed more concern over the language issue as well as his gross motor skills. The gross motor skills are being addressed, but the language thing sent me into a bit of a tizz.  There is apparently someone at the school that will assess him and give us a recommendation, so we will wait and see.

This also made me think: Daniel is a 1 or 2 friend child, he doesn’t have loads of friends that he demands to play with outside of school, so in that way he hasn’t been exposed to a lot of Afrikaans kids.  We love his BFF and we are certainly not going to force him not to play with her, but we also can’t force him to play with Afrikaans kids. Can you imagine: “Sorry boy, we don’t want to play with the English children, rather go play with the Afrikaans boys”

As if.

So, what is important is that he is happy with the friends he has and hopefully we’ll sort out the rest with time.


Ps:  His second front tooth is literally hanging by a thread and he looks like Quasimodo.  We crack ourselves every time he opens his mouth.

A nice wake-up call

I am Afrikaans.

It’s not something I hide, but after so many years of reading/working in English I find myself battling to do business communication in Afrikaans.  For my generation which grew up during the last days of Apartheid I live with a lot of “Afrikaans Guilt”.  I (wrongly) assume that people would judge me because I am Afrikaans when, in fact, only a single person has in all the time I have been working.  (And he didn’t want to speak Afrikaans in an Afrikaans Call Centre despite being told that is was a requirement as he felt it was “the language of the oppressor”.  But that’s a whole other story)

Last week I interviewed a really awesome guy with dreads.  Because I’m so inquisitive we ended up talking about how to maintain dreads (carefully and with special soap) and meandered through his family history of being Tswana and ending up in Cape Town as he had quite a distinct accent.

We then ended up talking about how people judge you on the way you look and speak and I ended up “confessing” that I am Afrikaans.  He looked absolutely horrified and said that I should never apologise for being Afrikaans, there’s nothing wrong with it at all and that I should be proud of my heritage.

It came up in conversation with friends this weekend as well and our friends suggested that African people possibly embrace Afrikaans-ness more because tradition and heritage is (rightly!) so important to them.

I wasn’t really going to bother writing a blog post about this, but then happened to read this article this morning by Phillip de Wet in the Daily Maverick.  He is a self-proclaimed “once-Afrikaans mhlungu”.  I saw those words and they were quite jarring.  So much so that I scrutinised the comments to see if it was just me that noticed it.  I’m so happy I’m not alone.

I am Afrikaans.  So is Etienne and so are our families and children.  And proudly so.

You don’t suddenly become “Un” something you grew up with that is your heritage.

Edit to add:

Right after I published this post I had a guy in my office that marked African, Coloured and Other under Race on his application form and very helpfully added that he was Swazi.  So I asked why he ticked Coloured.  No, he says, I don’t speak Coloured.  What language is Coloured I ask.

Afrikaans he says.

Like it’s a whole other race.

I just laughed.