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Eish and eina: Ryanair Afrikaans test casts spotlight on ...

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Eish and eina: Ryanair Afrikaans test casts spotlight on languages in SA

In its haste to disown Afrikaans, state skirts broader point about the confusion from our official-language choices

Columnist

Irish budget airline Ryanair’s cheap ’n nasty Afrikaans-language “nationality test’’ is a surreal flashback to the “dompas” and the pencil-in-the-hair tests that made apartheid a cause of needless suffering and provided endless opportunity to lampoon the racist bureaucracy that upheld the regime and its rules. And just in that sentence you already have two Afrikaans words, the most infamous of which, apartheid, has become the universal byword for oppression. Put that in your test, Ryanair!

Needless to say, Ryanair’s peculiar take on inflight entertainment has drawn outrage in SA, which is predictable and warranted, even if there is a sense of perhaps protesting too much.

Criticism has come from quarters as diverse as the government (“a backward profiling system”, according to home affairs), to the Afrikaans Language Board, which called it “absurd” and said it drew unwanted attention to Afrikaans when it is already on the back foot politically speaking. The board could have pointed out that, uniquely, Afrikaans is not only the third most-widely spoken language in SA, but also the most widely spread among all population groups, which lends the Ryanair test a certain perverse validity...

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