Afrikaans may be Asambese Mkumatela's third language, but that did not deter her from completing a master's degree in translation in this language.
She was awarded her degree cum laude on Monday 27 March 2023 at one of Stellenbosch University's (SU) March graduation ceremonies. The title of her thesis was “An examination of the use of translation methods by Afrikaans Language Acquisition Students".
Mkumatela's home language is Xhosa, but she has been speaking Afrikaans since her childhood days. She is the first in her family to obtain a degree in this language.
Currently a lecturer at the Nelson Mandela University, she says her interest in language was piqued at school, where Afrikaans Home Language was one of her subjects. She also understands isiZulu, Setswana and Sesotho.
“I have always liked reading to extend my vocabulary and to learn new languages. That is also where my interest in Afrikaans comes from."
Mkumatela's love for Afrikaans and her wish to further her linguistic skills in this language, led to her decision to study Afrikaans and Dutch at SU after school. Later she completed her honours and now her master's degree in translation.
Mkumatela says the fascinating aspect about languages and translation is how poetic and magical every language sounds. She points to the interesting creative words and expressions that exist in different languages, even those that cannot be directly translated into another language. That played a big role in her decision to focus on translation.
“I find language so special and full of wonders. You always learn new words and phrases and can express yourself in different ways by using different words and expressions. It's also wonderful to know that something that is said in one language can be translated for someone who cannot understand the language. For me, translation means inclusivity and equality."
Small wonder that Mkumatela feels strongly about multilingualism and diversity.
For her master's degree, Mkumatela investigated different translation methods used by second-language speakers of Afrikaans. She asked students who participated in her study to translate different texts, such as poems and articles.
“The purpose of the translation activities was to determine what methods they use to translate texts. I used the questionnaires to determine how they feel about translation in the second language classroom."
Mkumatela has high praise for the people at SU's Department of Afrikaans and Dutch for the support they offered, especially during the last year of her master's study when her dad passed away.
“It was extremely difficult to lose my dad and I thought it would have a big influence on the completion of my studies. However, I had a wonderful support system and could complete my thesis in record time, as I had planned. My study leader always had an open door and she continuously motivated me to persevere, even in those difficult times.
“Despite my financial challenges, the Department was very supportive and I never felt discouraged or that I wanted to give up."
Mkumatela adds that the Department's support and interest in her academic, personal and financial wellness also served as encouragement to challenge herself and to believe that she could complete her master's study.
With her master's degree in the bag, Mkumatela hopes to use methods from her study for continued research on language acquisition and translation.
She also wants to grow in her career. “The world is my oyster and ceilings don't exist in my world."
- Photo: Asambese Mkumatela at the graduation ceremony. Photographer: Stefan Els