Press release: Afrikaans Language Council unveils "The general demography of Afrikaans, 2022"

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The Afrikaanse Taalraad (Afrikaans Language Council) launched a report, "The general demography of Afrikaans (2022)", on 4 November at Joostenberg near Stellenbosch.

Conrad Steenkamp, ​​head of the Taalraad, says this is the first time that such a thorough study of the Afrikaans population in its entirety been carried out. "This is important, because Afrikaans speakers are going to have to work together across all borders to deal with the consequences of demographic change over the next decades."

Connie Mulder, head of the Solidarity Research Institute and co-author of the report, says by way of a quote that demography is the future that has already happened. "An in-depth demographic study like this makes it possible to look ahead and plan ahead, even down to the level of individual neighbourhoods."

According to Steenkamp, ​​the report uses UNESCO's evaluation framework, Language vitality and endangerment (2003), to identify the vulnerable aspects of Afrikaans and thus better understand the looming impact of demographic factors.

Afrikaans speakers are shrinking as a percentage of the country's overall population which reduces their bargaining power vis-à-vis the state. At the same time, the growing majority of brown and black speakers of Afrikaans are shifting the balance of power within the language community, which creates further challenges.

The growing use of English as the de facto official language and even less Afrikaans in important language domains such as public education has enormous implications for the preservation and growth of the language. "These trends will accelerate the anglicization of Afrikaans speakers (already more than 20,000 per year) and further damage Afrikaans' growth potential," says Mulder. "Anglicization is also driving the exceptionally strong growth of English as a home language."

According to the report, English - nourished by all the indigenous languages ​​- will probably overtake Afrikaans, the third largest language in the country, in 2022.

"We invite all Afrikaans stakeholders to further develop and refine the analysis of the demographic data with us," says Steenkamp. 'However, it should be clear that Afrikaans speakers will have to move out of their comfort zones to ensure the vitality and growth of Afrikaans,' says Steenkamp. "Those who do not plan properly or who do not collaborate with others will fail."

Box: Key demographic trends (2021–2041):

  • Strong general population growth and urban migration will increase linguistic diversity in these areas;
  • The number of Afrikaans speaking people grows in absolute terms from 7.11 million (2021) to 7.12 million (2031), which indicates a growing need for education and related services;
  • Afrikaans speakers shrink relative to the overall population from 11.7% (2021) to 9% (2041), weakening their access to state resources;
  • The already high levels of anglicization (around 20,000 Afrikaans speakers per year) are likely to increase and limit the growth of the language;
  • The brown and black majority within the Afrikaans language community grows from roughly 59% (2021) to 64% (2041).

Box: Strategic actions:

  • Better cooperation between Afrikaans organizations and networks;
  • The growth of the Afrikaans economy and the maintenance of Afrikaans' infrastructure;
  • New in-depth conversations between white, brown and black Afrikaans speakers about identity, language, education and economic benefit;
  • Improvement of the socio-economic conditions of young Afrikaans speakers;
  • Accelerated re-standardisation of Afrikaans;
  • Maintenance of the Afrikaans educational pipeline;
  • Promoting the transmission of Afrikaans between the generations: without it, a language dies;
  • Partnerships with the African languages;
  • Research for language planning and management.
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