Andries Coetzee in the Washington Post

Andries Coetzee (PhD 2004, now Professor at the University of Michigan) is quoted at length in a Washington Post article on a Ryanair travel requirement that requires South African passengers to demonstrate proficiency in Afrikaans as a citizenship test. The full text of the section citing and quoting Coetzee is below.



Andries W. Coetzee, a professor of linguistics and the director of the African Studies Center at the University of Michigan, said Afrikaans has strong ties to South Africa’s colonial history and an apartheid regime that institutionalized white supremacy.

Coetzee said the majority of South Africans do not speak Afrikaans, “so, it makes absolutely no sense to use that as a measurement of whether you are South African or not.” In 2011 census data shared by Statistics South Africa, 13.5 percent of the population said Afrikaans was their first language, trailing IsiZulu (22.7 percent) and IsiXhosa (16 percent) in that year’s data.

In 1925, the South African government made Afrikaans an official language, Coetzee said, and it became the language of politics to a large extent, a status that was reinforced after apartheid became the “official political system of the country” in 1948. While the language was at one time required in schools, he said, the majority of students who take the language now are those who speak it at home or those of European descent who speak English at home.

“If you are a Black citizen of South Africa who came of age and went to school after 1994, chances are that you don’t know Afrikaans because you don’t have to know Afrikaans,” Coetzee said. He called Ryanair’s policy “colonial, discriminatory and just unjustified.”

Coetzee noted that there are two socioethnic varieties of Afrikaans and that about half of the Afrikaans-speaking population are non-White.

“It would be inaccurate to say only White people speak the language,” he said. “But what would be accurate is to say 80 percent of the population do not speak Afrikaans, and that 80 percent are basically all non-White.”