Afrikaans isn’t the only language losing out to English

On Thursday, the Constitutional Court upheld a high court ruling that Stellenbosch University was right to implement its English-language policy, which made English the main language of instruction.

This, understandably, came as a blow to Afrikaans speakers. I won’t weigh in on the merits of the ConCourt decision. But I will point out that it is not only Afrikaans that is feeling the pressure of the expansion of English. In the Netherlands, for example, English is widely spoken, especially in multi-cultural Dutch offices. Half of all Dutch university courses are taught in English. Indeed, some Dutch academics say that English is no longer a foreign language, but rather a second language for the Dutch.

Indeed, across Europe, English usage is growing fast and, in some areas, displacing other languages in some contexts. It’s hard to resist the sweep of English given its dominance of the internet and popular culture (thanks America). It’s likely that over time, thanks to expanding global communication networks, English, Mandarin, and possibly Hindustani or Spanish will share out the world in linguistic groups, with SA likely to fall into the English orbit. For some, this is a good thing as it increases the ease of communication and doing business. For others, the loss of local languages is a cultural tragedy. Either way, it’s not an easy trend to halt.

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