By Matt Donaldson The theme weaving itself through our trip to South Africa thus far has been the blend of cultural backgrounds that make up the unique nation. The most tangible way to see the incredible diversity is through hearing the great mix of languages common to the region. South Africa has eleven official languages – that’s right, eleven! Imagine the uproar that would ensue from many if the United States declared another language ‘official!’ At the Apartheid museum, we learned about the vocal demonstrations of grade school students after they were told that they would be taught exclusively in Afrikaans, a language that developed from Europeans who moved there early in the nation’s history. The students wanted the opportunity to learn in English, which was more likely to provide chances at a career outside their hometown and family’s prestige. At the Chamber of Mines in Johannesburg, our speaker told us of a language that has developed among miners, allowing workers of different nationalities to communicate effectively. When walking around town, it is common to hear languages other than English, though many of those same people can speak as English too. Understanding multiple dialects is much more common here than anywhere I’ve ever experienced. I wish I had more time to discover and experience each one!
(March 7, 2012)