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Goodbye isiXhosa

The South African constitution guarantees "parity of esteem" to no less than 11 languages. But English, despite being the mother tongue of only 9 per cent of the population, will soon crowd out the rest

By RW Johnson   May 2006

Race has clearly been the dominant factor in South Africa’s difficult history, but language comes a close second. Generations of Afrikaners bristled with anger at the story of how, in Alfred Milner’s South Africa, immediately after the Boer war, a child who spoke Afrikaans was made to sit facing the wall wearing a dunce’s hat. More than 60 years later, as the tide of linguistic nationalism trampled over Anglo sensibilities, the South African post office was still stamping every letter with the slogan “Die Wonder van Afrikaans.” And while the apartheid government was able to jail Mandela in 1962 and…

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