Cape Town - Afrikaans Language Monument

Afrikaans Language Monument

Afrikaans Taal monument

Taal Monument

I have not travelled out of South Africa much so I do not know if other countries have monuments to a language. Well, here in SA we have to be different and have built one to the Afrikaans language. It is built on the southern slopes of the Paarl Rock mountain range and looks out over the farmlands of Stellenbosch and Paarl. It can be seen on the hillside as you approach Paarl along the N1 highway.

To reach it you have to turn into Paarl and take the first road to the left off main road and then follow the road as it winds its way up the hill to the monument.

The monument was unveiled on the 10th October 1975 during the centenary year of the founding of the Society of True Afrikaners. It was designed by the architect Jan van Wijk who was inspired by the environment with its round granite rocks, and the words of two Afrikaans authors, NP van Wyk Louw who wrote “ Afrikaans stands with one leg in Africa and with the other in the west.” and CJ Langenhoven who said” Afrikaans is a rapidly ascending curve.”

The drawing below will assist you following my explanation of the meaning of the various parts of the monument.

Drawing of the monument with labels

As you enter the monument you climb a couple of stairs and on your left "A" are 3 columns which symbolise the Western European languages and cultures. These columns are 13.5 metres high and look like granite although they are most probably granite and cement. In front of you is a pathway about 3 metres wide with a wall on both sides of it. The walls slope upward and form the base of a 57 metre column "D".

About 10 metres down the pathway as the walls slope upwards a roof is built over the pathway and this is called the bridge. This roof slopes "C" upwards and narrows to the width of the column at the top. This column represents the origin and development of Afrikaans. Where the roof begins the pathway leads into a passage way beneath the roof and curves around to the right. At the base of the column which is hollow and stands in water is a fountain bubbling up through a granite dome. The column has a large hole at the top to let light in. In front of the pool and fountain is a circular wall about knee height to keep kids from falling into the water.

To your right there is an archway leading outside onto a large podium "B" built of rock. It is a approximately thirty metres wide from left to right as you leave the archway and about twenty metres from the archway to the retaining wall directly opposite the archway.

The retaining wall circles round from your left and becomes the right hand wall of the pathway I described when you enter the monument.

The podium with its three granite domes

On the right of the podium are three domes made of granite and cement (Look like tennis balls that have been cut in half and are laying cut side down) They represents Africa's indigenous languages and cultures. If you walk across the podium to the domes and turn around to face the column and archway you came through, to the right of the main column is another column "E" which is 26 metres high. This column symbolises South Africa and is also standing in water. At the base of the main steps is a wall" F " which represents the great contribution of the Malay language and culture.

View towards Cape Town

The view from the monument is spectacular and if you look towards the west over the farmlands which surround the area you can see Table Mountain in the distance.To the south are the Stellenbosch mountains and to the east the Hottentots Holland mountains with Paarl valley in between.

The monument complex also includes an amphitheatre built into the side of the hill with a large covered stage. I imagine that about 2000 people could fit into it. This monument was built before the fall of the apartheid regime and it is a wonder that it has not been removed or had its name changed by the present government. Most other towns and places have.

Afrikaans is a language which is peculiar to South Africa. It is derived mainly from Dutch although many English words have been included and changed to suit the language. It is a very descriptive language. For instance the word lekker. It is pronounced leckerrr ( like a roaring lion). It's used like the word yummy when describing how good food tastes. We use it in English too when we say “the food is lekker.” If you can understand Afrikaans, German also becomes easier to understand as many of the words sound the same.

What also makes this language unique is the way it is spoken. When spoken by the local coloured folk amongst themselves the word “JY” which means you is pronounced “JAY “ where in fact its proper pronunciation is Yay.

Another word JOU should be pronounced yoe but is pronounced JOE.
Since 1994 with the fall of apartheid Afrikaans although still an official language has lost its importance. We now have eleven official languages with English being the main one used.

I wonder how many other countries can boast so many languages. Most of the locals here can understand two or three of them and that is all. When you visit Paarl do not forget to visit the monument.

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Cape Town - Afrikaans Language Monument Paarl