Some Afrikaans expressions don’t bear translation. No other language quite captures their exact meaning. Like bakgat, which means ‘cool’, although the word doesn’t really get that element of grudging admiration. Or gatvol, which means ‘fed-up’, but with far less civility. The Afrikaans Language Monument traces the history of the unique language that is Afrikaans.

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The Northern Cape town of Richmond boasts a rare horse museum.

The emergence of new languages in modern times is unusual, but one that has come into being in recent history is Afrikaans, somewhat of a bridge between the European languages spoken by the early white settlers (Dutch, German, French and Portuguese) in South Africa, the Malay tongue of slaves brought here by the Dutch East India Company, and an array African languages, dating from the ancient San.

One of the advantages of a new language is that the process of its formation can be documented. At the Afrikaans Language Museum in the Western Cape town of Paarl (or the Taal Museum to give it its Afrikaans name), the visitor can trace the shaping of the Afrikaans language.

The museum has been set up in the very location where a body formed to promote Afrikaans was first established in 1875, the Association for True Afrikaners (ATA). The ground floor of this two-storey Georgian-style house has been restored and furnished as close as possible to its original state. A noteworthy item situated in the children's bedroom, just as it was some 135 years ago, is the ATA's printing press, used to publish Afrikaans literature.

The top floor of the Afrikaans museum in Paarl presents the story and the personalities behind the development of the language. The exhibits are imaginatively presented as games, soundtracks and interactive displays. Exhibits are translated into English, so speaking Afrikaans is not a prerequisite.

The Afrikaans Language Museum is best visited in conjunction with the Taal Monument or the Afrikaans Language Monument, which towers above Paal just outside town. Its columns and curves represent the pillars of Afrikaans, namely its diverse intercontinental influences, and its sweeping growth. The monument is located on the edge of Paarl mountain and enjoys a panoramic view of the surrounding winelands.

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