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    Ryanair's Afrikaans Test Sparkes Outrage Among South Africans

    Being historically linked to racism and black enslavement, Afrikaans is still widely seen in South Africa as the language of the oppressor.

    08 Jun 2022

    Rabat - The low-cost Irish airline Ryanair has come under fire for requiring South African passengers to complete a test in Afrikaans before boarding.

    The Afrikaans language is historically linked to racism and black enslavement as it was constructed by white colonial settlers of Dutch, Germanic, and French origins. With this being an already sensitive topic in South Africa, many perceived Ryanair’s decision as “discriminatory and unacceptable.”

    However, the Irish airline defended its new test regulation by stressing that it is meant to help identify those traveling on fraudulent South African passports.

    “Due to the high prevalence of fraudulent South African passports, we require passengers traveling to the UK to fill out a simple questionnaire issued in Afrikaans,” Ryanair said in a statement.

    Passengers who are unable to complete the quiz “will be refused onboard and issued with a full refund,” it added.

    The news about the test first broke on May 27 after a passenger with a South African passport and a UK residence permit was asked to answer two-pages in Afrikaans before flying from Portugal to London.

    The passenger took to twitter to express his outrage. “I asked for an English version but was told the test was only in Afrikaans … I was told if I didn’t get 100% I wouldn’t be allowed to fly. Only after writing the test and having my answers checked was I given my boarding pass.”

    With Ryanair maintaining that it implemented this test to make people “prove” their South African citizenship, the UK High Commission in South Africa highlighted that “the test is not a UK government requirement.”

    It is not clear whether the test requirement applies to only Ryanair’s flights to the UK or to all its flights.

    Despite Afrikaans being the third most-spoken language in South Africa -- only 12% of the country’s population use it as a first language -- it is still widely seen as the language of the oppressor.

    In 2020, the South African Ministry of Education discouraged the use of Afrikaans in universities, designating it as a “foreign” European language.

    Instead, the ministry proposed an education bill to include marginalized Black South African languages and address the linguistic injustices of European colonialism in the country.


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