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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

On-line version ISSN 2224-7912
Print version ISSN 0041-4751


SCHOLTZ, Leopold  and  SCHOLTZ, Ingrid. The debate about the position of Afrikaans at the University of Stellenbosch: An analysis. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2008, vol.48, n.3, pp.292-313. ISSN 2224-7912.

The debate about the place of Afrikaans and English as mediums of instruction at the University of Stellenbosch has been generating more heat than light since its beginning in 2002. In this paper, an attempt is made to analyse the debate and to establish where and why the protagonists differ. For reasons of brevity, three representatives of both sides - those who fight for Afrikaans as the sole pre-graduate medium of instruction and those who are in favour of bilingual instruction in Afrikaans and English respectively - are compared. They are, on the one hand, Professors Hermann Giliomee and Pieter Kapp (both retired historians) and Mr Christo van der Rheede (CEO of the Foundation for Empowerment through Afrikaans), and on the other Professors Chris Brink and Fanie Cloete (Rector at the time of the debate and political scientist respectively), as well as Dr Edwin Hertzog (Chairman of the University Council). The first group maintains on the strength of research in South Africa and elsewhere in the world that double medium necessarily leads to the demise of the weaker language, in this case Afrikaans; that the University in fact does not even practise the minimum conditions for bilingualism in the class room; that the bilingual project is ideologically driven; and that it neglects the interests of the poor (Coloured) Afrikaans speaking students. The second group is of the opinion that a university's task is not to protect a language, but to foster academic excellence; that unilingual Afrikaans instruction places the university on a slippery slope towards parochialism and isolation; that a multicultural approach is better than cultural apartheid; and that the move towards English is necessary for racial transformation, given South Africa's apartheid past. The arguments are then weighed, and it is found that while the "unilingualists" base their arguments in the main on academic and pedagogic grounds, the "multiculturalists' " approach is largely ideological. The two sides therefore reason on different levels, which also explains why almost no middle ground could be reached during the debate. It is also established that the bilingual approach at Stellenbosch is practised in such a way that the end product is, more likely than not, a unilingual English situation. It appears that the "unilingualists" are academically on more solid ground than the "multiculturalists".

Keywords : Language policy; Afrikaans; University of Stellenbosch.

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