Cape Town – A poem from 2013 has recently gone viral for its ability to be read in English and in Afrikaans, which had a lot of South African users tripping out.
The poem was created for Bryanston Parallel Medium & Pre Primary in Johannesburg back in 2013 by South African-based ad agency, Joe Public. The campaign featured a series of posters with poetry on them, but what has hooked everyone on them is that each of the poems could be read word-for-word in both English and Afrikaans, with only the meaning behind them slight changing.
MY STORIES BEGIN AS LETTERS
My pen is my wonderland.
Word water in my hand.
In my pen is wonder ink.
Stories sing. Stories sink.
My stories loop.
My Stories stop.
My pen is my wonder mop.
Drink my ink.
My pen is blind.
My stories blink.
South Africans fluent in English and Afrikaans have said they had a difficult time reading it as their mind kept switching between languages.
The poem went over particularly well with Reddit users as the post has over 400 upvotes on the micro-blogging site.
FayePixie: "That’s pretty interesting. Never seen one like that."
JarryHead: "I had to read it a few times before I realized I shouldn’t switch language every sentence."
Blazzok: "Same, I struggled to read it."
ichosenotyou: "It was torture."
marianep2001: "I read the Afrikaans poem first and understood it. Then read the English one and got that, went back to Afrikaans and was like WTF."
Dr Amiena Peck, from the the Linguistics Department at the University of the Western Cape, weighed in and explained that the there is certainly more to the poem than what meets the eye.
"The poem has gone viral on social media as it allows people of different linguistic backgrounds to see the beauty and wonder of linguistic creativity emergent from a center of unity and harmony.
"For too long, languages have been used as a barrier to communication and this poem shows just how this ideology can be flipped on it’s head," Peck said.
"An example of this wonder can be seen in our slave history as many people in South Africa are still unaware that Afrikaans was first written in Arabic script, meaning that slaves were the first literate Afrikaans speakers.
"This phenomenon ended when the Latin scripts (a, b, c, d) was used to write Afrikaans. So in many ways, languages are a lot more diverse than we give it credit for and this poem shows us that we have much more in common than we realize. Significantly, this symbolizes hope for our diverse nation," Peck said.
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