Over the last decade the kykNET Silwerskermfees has grown from strength to strength, celebrating Afrikaans theatre and film with an annual event in Camps Bay. At the same time, the people involved find new and young voices and grow and develop the South African film industry, which of late seems to be bursting at the seams.
Apart from the industry growth and job creation that comes with an initiative like the Silwerskermfees, the stories that are being told and showcased also bring a renewed energy and interest in Afrikaans, arguably one of the youngest languages on planet Earth.
We often come across people on Facebook asking for advice on how to learn Afrikaans. Advice normally range from services offered such as “fast, easy lessons by real teachers”, finding and listening to podcasts, watching the news in Afrikaans, asking questions on Facebook dedicated to answering them.
The worst of them all? Hands-down, it has to be Google translate, because – and I promise you this is totally one hundred percent not made up – “yellow-billed oxpecker” translates to “geel-gefokte ossewa”! Go look it up for yourself right now for a laugh, and spread the Afrikaans gospel.
Let’s just back up that geel-gefokte ossewa for a minute and consider a much more legit platform to learn Afrikaans – Showmax. Why? Because it’s got more than 20 Silwerkerm movies for you to watch, so you can hear the pronunciation of each word, get a feel for the context and structure of the language, and read the subtitles.
I’ve seen how English people ugly-laugh when they merely hear the word “poephol” out loud.
Self-appointed cunning linguists would also have you believe that the first step towards learning a new language is to take a dive headfirst into the pile of expletives. You will unearth plenty of those gemstones along your Silwerskermfees journey alone, keeping in mind that there is still a vast collection of other Afrikaans movies and series to discover as well.
I highly recommend kicking off your informal schooling in Afrikaans with anything from the Silwerskermfees arsenal, and there is solid reasoning behind this suggestion. If you “study” one movie every two weeks, you’re more or less covered until December, give or take a long weekend. That’s one year of top-notch Afrikaans university tuition at your own pace, in your own crib, at the cost of a Showmax subscription, right there!
Yeah, yeah sure, you also get all the fancy Hollywood movies, international series, kids’ stuff and live sport, but we’re here to learn, so put down that popcorn and concentrate!
The best way to kick off your Afrikaans adventure would be to start with Swaaibraai because of the word “braai” in the title. Everybody in South Africa should be familiar with braaivleis, seeing that it is our national pastime. We’re practically born clutching barbecue tongs and a rugby or soccer ball. But please, don’t ask your colleagues to “swaaibraai” with you at the next work social event.
Director and screenwriter Gerhard Pretorius’ new short film Swaaibraai is a story about a young suburban middle-class Afrikaans couple, Susan and Lourens Smit, whose relationship is heading straight for the rocks.
Susan often works late and Lourens has resorted to watching porn in the evenings. One evening he makes the mistake of putting on headphones while watching porn and reaching for his nether regions, unaware of his wife walking in on him while he is having a go at himself. This also provides for a great Afrikaans lesson as she shouts at him from the front door:
“Jy wat soos ‘n leerlingbestuur op ons bank sit en eerste rat probeer soek?!” (“You’re trying to find first gear like a learner driver on our couch?!”)
The couple decide to try to patch things up by having a heart-to-heart over a bottle of wine, and the conversation turns to their sex life – or lack thereof. Susan tries to be as casual as possible about this app she heard about called Swaaibraai at one of her Tupperware parties. It loosely translates to “swing and braai” which is a word play on “bring and braai”.
Quite bluntly, it is a smartphone app for people who want to go to swingers parties. She shows Lourens the app, and the marketing video is hilarious and brilliantly put-together. There is a treasure trove of Afrikaans lessons in this little video alone and you’re going to rewind it a few times and laugh your ass off! Trust me, I know this. I’ve seen how English people ugly-laugh when they merely hear the word “poephol” out loud.
The movie has a few lekker unexpected twists, it is cleverly edited and there is a brilliant and kak-funny intertextual reference to Robbie Wessels’ Leeuloop.
All this is packed into 22 easily digestible minutes, the same length as a sitcom episode, and it comes with subtitles. Speaking of which, at some point there is a subtitle translation of “Hey… She’s heavenly, if you know what I mean.”
In the context it is correctly translated for the purpose of the joke, but the host actually clumsily says in Afrikaans: “Sy’s Engels, as jy weet wat ek bedoel?”, referring to her being English but also suggesting that she is angelic (“engel/engels”). Great set-up!
Two last gems (the rest you need to discover for yourself):
I’ve never heard the expression but I cracked a smile when I heard “Jy kan of ‘n ouer wees, of jy kan awesome wees.” (“You can either be a parent or you can be awesome”.)
And there’s just no way that you can truly translate “Praatjies vul geen gaatjies” to be equally side-splitting in English: “Chit-chat doesn’t fill the holes” just sounds a bit off colour and mean.
Buy a donkey for supporting the Afrikaans arts, guys. Even if you only start today. Here are my ses van die bestes in no particular order, except for Fluit-Fluit which is my nommer twee geliefkoosde choice. Gaan leer nou daardie Afrikaans:
- Buiteperd (with Eric Holm)
- Die Maan Val Bewusteloos (with Cobus Rossouw)
- Die Leeftyd van ‘n Orgidee (with Jana Cilliers)
- Fluit Fluit (with Cindy Swanepoel)
- Vossie Vergas Homself (with Tobie Cronje)
- Cowboy Dan (with Brendon Daniels)