South Africans have condemned Irish airline Ryanair for making them take a test in
the Afrikaans language on UK flights, calling it discriminatory.
The country has 11 official languages, and many say they cannot understand
Afrikaans – a language which was imposed during white-minority rule.
The quiz contains questions on South African general knowledge.
Ryanair defended the test, saying it weeds out those travelling on fraudulent South
“Due to the high prevalence of fraudulent South African passports, we require
passengers travelling to the UK to fill out a simple questionnaire issued in Afrikaans,”
it said in a statement.
“If they are unable to complete this questionnaire, they will be refused travel and
issued with a full refund,” the airline continued.
A South African man who was flying from Lanzarote to London in May said he was
“shocked” when Ryanair took away his passport and boarding pass before presenting
him with the Afrikaans test.
When Dinesh Joseph protested, Ryanair staff told him: “This is your language,” he
“I was seething, I felt really triggered… there was a sense of anxiety and anger inside
of me,” Mr Joseph told the BBC’s Newshour programme.
“It’s callous and insensitive to force people to write a test which would evoke so much
emotion around it – the language of apartheid was Afrikaans,” Mr Joseph continued,
saying he felt “oppressed” and insisting that speaking Afrikaans has nothing to do
with how South African someone is.
There is also anger online.
One person online described Ryanair’s policy as “bigoted rubbish”.
Another person told Ryanair that South Africa is “no longer in Apartheid”.
“Educate yourselves”, the tweeter continued.
Only around 13% of South Africans speak Afrikaans as a first language, according to a
2011 census – making it the country’s third-most spoken mother tongue, after Zulu
The BBC asked Ryanair why they required the test to be taken in Afrikaans rather
than any other South African language, but the company did not answer.
The test is not required by UK border authorities.
The quiz, which one report says is riddled with grammatical and spelling errors,
contains questions such as what is South Africa’s international dialling code, what is
its capital city and who is the current president of the country.
Conrad Steenkamp, the head of South Africa’s Afrikaans Language Board, described it
as “absurd” and said it had hindered attempts to improve the image of the Afrikaans