Afrikaans is declared an official language of South Africa

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Apartheid Sign

Tuesday, 5 May 1925

According to Act 8 of 1925, Afrikaans became one of the official languages of South Africa. The development of Afrikaans can be traced to arrival of settlers to the Cape. This is however not the sole factor that led to the development of Afrikaans, as it was employed by the servants, slaves and indigenous traders to communicate with the Dutch. This is substantiated by the variety of influences present in Afrikaans. These would include Khoisan, Malaysian, French, Dutch, English and German among others. This does not mean that the language is only limited to these influences, as various dialects are spoken all over South Africa, with the dominant indigenous language of a region influencing the dialect of Afrikaans in that region.

The popularity of Afrikaans and its subsequent endorsement by the Apartheid government, have their roots in the attempted social engineering project by which the Dutch population in South Africa sought to unify members of this group.  It aimed to build a South African nationalism that recognised their varied origins, but one that emphasised a unique South African identity. However this identity was largely based on race and Afrikaans as a language thus became synonymous with White oppression in South Africa. Despite this attempt at creating a schism with regard to language and race among South Africans, Afrikaans is widely spoken by Black people.

References:
• South Africa's languages (Online). Available at: mediaclubsouthafrica.com [Accessed 26 April 2010]
• UNESCO World Report Languages Survey Questionnaire (Online). Available at: salanguages.com [Accessed 26 April 2010]
• Afrikaans (Online). Available at: cyberserv.co.za [Accessed 26 April 2010]

Last updated : 23-May-2014

This article was produced for South African History Online on 16-Mar-2011