Written by Morag Noffke
Having followed Operation X for the past six months I have come to enjoy and appreciate the posts on linguistics, especially the Frisian studies as I can understand quite a bit of it when I read it. This is because I was brought up in a bilingual environment until I was a teenager, speaking English and Afrikaans as my mother was Afrikaans and my father Scottish. I was sent to a bilingual school but my lessons were in English and as was my home language.
As a teenager I studied Afrikaans first language for a term where they taught us Dutch as well as phonetics. This is where my interest in other languages came from. I don’t consider myself a natural linguist but I have an avid interest in the roots of words and the families of languages. My interest was piqued when I read the Frisian-related posts and also by Dyami’s mission to revive minority languages; Afrikaans being one of them. I found his enthusiastic attitude inspiring and so I began to consider what I could offer in collaboration as I am not a first language Afrikaans speaking person and have actually not written in the language for almost 40 years.
What happened in the 40 years?
One of the major reasons is that I began to associate the language with the ruling party at the time which I did not align myself to and actually felt ashamed that the white people benefitted by the ruling parties actions while the disenfranchised were disadvantaged. Another reason was that my mother, although working for the Afrikaans newspaper called “die Landstem,” began to make a circle of friends that were English speaking. I didn’t see much of my Afrikaans cousins and so it was a natural transition. I did have Afrikaans colleagues at work but once I was married and had my children I had completely moved into an English culture. As my father died when I was young, I spent all my energy making contact with my Scottish family living in Scotland. It was a conscious effort to build connections with this side of the family.
What do I want to do with the learning of Afrikaans?
It is my hope that as I embark on learning and improving my Afrikaans that I can forge connections with my forgotten roots and culture. I want to explore the language further as well as my family who I have lost contact with. I feel that it is in owning who one is that one can move past the shame and work for the greater good of all humans. Another hope of mine is that as I take this step in sharing my experiences in written Afrikaans that other Afrikaans speaking people would be encouraged too, to collaborate with Operation X. I am sure they could do a much better job at it than I can. I think that the written word helps to preserve the culture and one’s roots.
There are many subcultures within the Afrikaans people (for example: the West coast, Cape Town, Malmsbury, Pretoria, etc. to name a few) which differ from place to place so I plan to focus on my subculture of Hout Baai, which is of bilingual influence, as I can only speak from my own experience. Afrikaans might be a minefield of political tensions but I feel encouraged to explore the history and beauty of the language objectively. I think with Dyami’s help this will be possible.
My plan is as follows:
To improve my overall ability to think in the language, I aim to write up my morning pages in Afrikaans (this assists in flow of thought); all editing is done at the end such as vocabulary, spelling and grammar. I have an Afrikaans teacher who is willing to correct and help me learn the grammar as that is my weakness. I have also started making connections with the forgotten family members. I would like to share, in Afrikaans, my experiences, memories and stories of the place I grew up in as well as a little of my life as a bilingual South African. As I explore my roots, I hope that I will be able to share some of these experiences as well as a growing intrigue of the language.