Monocolumn: Mine Your Language

Monocolumn: Mine Your Language

You might expect reports of the pending death of a language to prompt dewy-eyed
appeals from academics. But no one is shedding a tear for the demise of Fanagalo – most often heard 2,000 metres beneath the surface of the African continent.

  • 3 february 2011

Monocolumn is Monocle’s daily bulletin of news and opinion. Catch up with previous editions here.

You might expect reports of the pending death of a language to prompt dewy-eyed
appeals from academics. But no one is shedding a tear for the demise of Fanagalo – most often heard 2,000 metres beneath the surface of the African continent.

“Upi lo bar?” has been the exclamation of generations of southern African miners at the end of long shifts breaking mineral-bearing rocks. Now South Africa’s powerful National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) wants them simply to ask: ‘’Where is the bar?’’ in English, or in another yet-to-be-agreed language.

Fanagalo, which has about 2,000 words, is unique among the world’s pidgins for drawing its structure from a non-colonial language, Zulu. As a result of South Africa’s tradition of using migrant mine labour, Fanagalo includes words from English, Afrikaans, Dutch, Xhosa and seven other languages. It is spoken in mines and, to some extent, above ground in Zimbabwe, Namibia, Mozambique, Zambia and South Africa.

The official reason given for calls to abolish Fanagalo is mine safety. Nhlanhla Thwala, head of the School of Literature and Language Studies at the University of Witwatersrand said young miners do not understand it. “Fanagalo is supported by older miners. Young people are able to speak to each other in English and in their home languages.”

Given the broad catchment area for recruitment, that is not always true, says Stella McCarthy at the employers’ organisation, the South African Chamber of Mines. She claims the NUM wants to do away with Fanagalo because it is used by bosses and is perceived as an element of “baaskapheid” – subservience to white foremen.

Lesiba Seshoka, spokesman for the NUM, claims South Africa’s 11 official languages offer plenty of alternatives. He also claims Fanagalo is holding back miners’ education prospects. “The language inculcates a different culture in the mines. We cannot have a place where people operate their own language,” he says.

To continue reading, click here.

Image by Rgtmum


How Indiegogo Is Becoming An Adult Product Destination

Home september 23, 2016

Watch This Fire Pit Dance Along To Your Favorite Song

Music City Fire is a system that is designed to flicker in time to ambient music

Automotive september 23, 2016

Slick GPS Navigator Gives Directions To Moped Riders

This small, round device attaches to a sideview mirror to display maps for safer traveling


Get PSFK's Related Report: CES 2016 Guide

See All
Home september 23, 2016

A Clock That Beautifully Manages Your Information Overload

The wall-mounted timekeeper is made to help people maintain focus and stay up to date with their appointments

Arts & Culture september 23, 2016

Performance Piece Blends Dancers Into Folds Of Light

The work provides commentary on the increasing connection between programmed and analog dimensions

Related Expert

Jennifer Kinon

Designer & Educator

Design & Architecture september 23, 2016

Design Firm Adapts Childhood Homes For Unemployed Young Adults

The studio has unveiled three prototypes of transformed living spaces for people forced to move back in with their families

Health september 23, 2016

These Chocolate Squares Claim To Reverse The Aging Process

A group of researchers from Cambridge University have developed a candy bar that promises to give you a youthful glow

Cities september 23, 2016

Food-Producing Architecture Competition Seeks To Better Feed Cities

A design challenge in Copenhagen highlights the need and beauty of urban farming


Future Of Automotive
Scenarios Driving The Digital Transformation Of An Industry

PSFK Op-Ed september 21, 2016

Creative Agency Founder: Using VR As A Race Relationship Tool

Maurice Bernstein, CEO and Founder of Giant Step, explores the value in transforming headsets from high-tech entertainment tools into empathy machines

PSFK Labs september 22, 2016

The Future Of Work: Why Innovation Is Every Employee’s Job

PSFK Labs sits down with management at Johnson & Johnson to learn how the company comes up with their next ‘big idea’

Health september 23, 2016

Wearable Monitors Sun Exposure To Prevent Sunburn

The clip monitors UV rays to make sure you're not receiving too much sunlight

Op-Ed september 23, 2016

Productivity Expert: The Magic Of The Five-Hour Workday

Stephan Aarstol, Founder of Tower Paddle Boards, explains why the modern notion of office hours needs to evolve

Culture september 23, 2016

This Exhibition’s Crowning Jewel Is An 18k Gold-Plated Toilet

The piece, titled 'America,' is meant to raise questions about the country's wealth inequality

Culture september 23, 2016

Match Up With Dates On Tinder Based On Your Music Preferences

A new partnership with Spotify lets people pair up based on shared tastes in artists

Entertainment september 23, 2016

Capture, Cut Up, And Configure Your World In 360 Degrees

To meet a booming 360 and VR video-capturing industry, a multimedia software company bolstered its media editing suite for 360-video creation


Future Of Work
Cultivating The Next Generation Of Leaders

Advertising september 23, 2016

These Trucks Drove Around In Circles For 24 Hours To Keep Time

The giant ticking clock was created by 14 Scania vehicles in a deserted airfield

Advertising september 23, 2016

Buy Movie Tickets Directly From Your Facebook Profile

The new feature is part of a campaign from Fandango to further imbed social media into the ticket vendor's digital presence

Asia september 23, 2016

Co-Working Space Brings The Calming Atmosphere Of Nature Indoors

An architectural firm in China has designed a new type of shared office that prioritizes the natural environment

No search results found.