Russia students see future for Afrikaans

“Afrikaans is a beautiful and emotional language. It is very unfair that it is being suppressed in South Africa.”

These are the words of Valentina Kim (22), one of six Russian students who study Afrikaans as first and second additional language at the Lomonosov Moscow State University’s Institute for Asian and African Languages.

The student group visited the offices of the civil rights organisation AfriForum and the trade union Solidarity as part of a cultural tour that was arranged by the Federasie van Afrikaanse Kultuurvereniginge (FAK) to teach them more about Afrikaans and Afrikaans-speaking people.

According to Johan Jansen van Vuuren, Project and Communications Officer at the FAK, the students attracted the attention of the organisation after Prof. Deon Geldenhuys from the University had visited Moscow. The organisation then invited the students to visit South Africa to learn more about Afrikaans and Afrikaans-speaking people.

“For me, Afrikaans has the most beautiful sound patterns and pronunciation,” says Alisa Balikhina (22), one of the students who also studied Afrikaans at the North-West University in Potchefstroom for six months during an exchange programme.

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“I stayed with an Afrikaans family in Potchefstroom and felt very safe and at home. It had a great feeling of unity and a nice student life. Even today I still say that I am a proud Pukkie (a student of the NWU).”

She tells Forum Nuus that Russian institutions do not experience the same pressure to anglicise as is the case in South Africa. She feels there is huge potential for Afrikaans to blossom world-wide.

“There is no way that English will ever become an official language of Russia. We are simply too proud of our own language and culture.”

The Lomonosov Moscow State University is the oldest educational institution in Russia and has a long tradition of academic excellence. Afrikaans is one of five African languages that students of this university can study.

Stefan Loekjanenko (21) says that he decided on Afrikaans as it sounded to him like a beautiful language. He tells that the visit to Cape Town has so far been the highlight of his visit. “This town has it all: mountains, sea and so many people from different cultures. It was an unbelievable experience to have visited it.”

Warvara Smirnowa (22), also one of the Russian students, tells Forum Nuus that it was challenging at times to learn to speak Afrikaans, as its sentence constructions are so different from Russian. She also says that she enjoyed attending an Afrikaans church service at the DR Church Lyttelton. “The service had a wonderful feeling of unity. I enjoyed it very much.”

The students have already visited the Centurion High School, the Protea-boekhuis (bookstore), the Voortrekker Monument as well as the set of the Afrikaans soapy Binnelanders and the offices of Beeld in MediaPark, Johannesburg.
They will also be visiting various other attractions in Pretoria and Johannesburg.

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