Language: The great debate

UFS students have their say

Language policies at institutions of higher learning have been the subject of controversy and intense debate all over the country. It is located within the broader transformation contestations. Last week we carried a piece by Professor Daniel F M Strauss, who made the case for Afrikaans. This week, UFS students have their say.

Hlonipha Matshamba, BComm Entrepreneurship, honours student

The language policy for me is a string of hope. Hope that maybe finally top management is taking us, as students, seriously. There is a sense of hope that more changes will be made after this – changes that will support true transformation.

I believe that the new language policy would be a good gesture that the students are being heard.

However I do wonder whether it will really be changed. Why now, what has prevented it from happening in the past, and won’t it be stopped by the same people who could have prevented it before?

I would love for us to have one language as a medium of instruction but will that truly bring about transformative change. It might be the start, and I say, why not try.

We have tried dual medium already. So why not have English as our only medium of instruction. Times have changed, centuries have passed and yes, it is time we move away from being an “Afrikaans university”. Changing the language policy carries a lot of weight and would drastically change the way we are viewed externally, and how ‘welcome’ we feel as black UFS students on campus.

Mpho Segalo (South Campus student – Psychology and Sociology)

I think that Afrikaans should be cancelled, because when they post things on blackboards, they are only posted in Afrikaans and for people like me who cannot read Afrikaans it inconveniences me, like this other time I was working on a SCLL assignment and I couldn’t use the slides on the blackboard because they were in Afrikaans. Thirdly, when we do a computer practical the instructions are written in Afrikaans first and the English is written in a really small font and we sometimes miss important instructions. And lastly our varsity wants good statistics and the students who are studying in Afrikaans won’t be able to study abroad cos there is no studying in Afrikaans outside South Africa.

Chuma Dapula (Corporate and marketing communication 1st year)

It’s easy to just say only English should be used but a lot should be taken into consideration. The Afrikaans speakers have studied their whole lives in Afrikaans so by making them start studying in English only when reaching tertiary would doom them to failure. If we are to make all tertiary institutions teach in English, then all education from primary school should be in English. That on its own comes with many consequences. The same applies to just using Afrikaans. The majority do not understand Afrikaans so they would be disadvantaged. It’s very complex. At the moment there is an attempt to meet the students half way by teaching in both languages. I am not saying it’s perfect because the textbooks are in English which affects the Afrikaans learners and again learning in your mother tongue comes with benefits of better understanding and the lectures here are mainly Afrikaans so they teach better in Afrikaans. On the other hand, the students who are not English first language speakers don’t learn in their mother tongue and are taught by lecturers who aren’t necessary good English speakers as they communicate better in Afrikaans. So there are shortfalls on either side.

Junaid Boughan (1st year education student)

It is very controversial and it has to do with culture. Most literature is in the two languages, so removing Afrikaans is taking away some history, for history is a single story. So I go with both English and Afrikaans and the implementation of Setswana.

Audryana Yaholnitsky (Media Studies & Journalism 1st year)

In order to heal the image of racism that has been portrayed by the media, I believe that introducing English as the only medium of instruction would encourage people of different races to come together and get to interact and get to know each other more. Because we would all be attending the same classes we will get to mingle with each other more. And with regard to fairness, English is a second language for almost all of us so people who study with Afrikaans as their medium of instruction are more at an advantage because it’s their mother tongue. Imagine if you were to study in your own mother tongue. Things would certainly be easier to understand.

Thabang Moselane (Media Studies & Journalism 1st year)

Personally, I think having English as the only medium will help us unite as student. It will place us in situations where we will have to work together, eradicating issues such as exclusivity. It bothers me to walk alongside the bridge and see people grouping themselves according to the colour of their skin. I have nothing against Afrikaans nor do I have anything against people of other races – I have relationships with white people evident that I’m always with my white friend in all the classes we attend together. But for the sake of us growing as a University, we need to be put in situations that are going to ‘force’ us to work collectively. One more factor; English is a universal language.

Christeley Bouwer (BA Management, first year)

I personally believe that you have the choice to choose what language you want to study in and there are so many Afrikaans students that you can’t just put on English courses. In the English classes it should be strictly English and in the Afrikaans classes it should be strictly Afrikaans. Every individual has the right to choose what class they want to be in, English or Afrikaans. I think English should be predominant because most of our emails are in English and I don’t feel like Afrikaans is affecting anyone who, for example, cannot speak it.