Feinauer promoted to full professor

Ilse Feinauer of the Department of Afrikaans and Dutch at Stellenbosch University has been promoted to full professor with effect from 1 July.

Prof Ilse Feinauer

Prof Ilse Feinauer

She is the first woman at Stellenbosch University to receive this title in Afrikaans Linguistics, although there are a number of female professors in the Afrikaans Literature section.

“I suspect it is because, in the past, women of my age were more interested in studying literature than linguistics, and students who were more linguistically orientated often preferred to work outside of academia,” says Feinauer, who started teaching in the Department of Afrikaans and Dutch in 1982 and was Chairperson of the Department from 2005 to 2008. ”I have always had an intense interest in linguistics and, while my fellow students moved to literature, I remained with linguistics.”

According to Feinauer, however, there are increasing numbers of women who are studying linguistics.

“It is as if the younger generation is less afraid of the scientific nature of linguistics,” she says.

Feinauer did her master’s degree under the late Prof Johan Combrink, looking at the linguistic behaviour of swearwords in Afrikaans (“Die taalkundige gedrag van vloekwoorde in Afrikaans”).

“I am still notorious for that research,” she laughs. “If the media want to know something about swearing, they phone me. Because I worked so closely with swearwords, the words lost their taboo value for me. As a result I often don’t watch what I say. My dissertation for my PhD under Prof Fritz Ponelis was much more edifying and dealt with word order in Afrikaans.”

Over the years, Feinauer has increasingly moved into the world of translation and has established herself firmly in the international realm of translation. Within the Department of Afrikaans and Dutch she is the co-ordinator of the postgraduate translation programmes.

“One of the greatest benefits of my work is that I can attend international conferences and make a contribution to the academic field of translation all over the world. It also is a privilege to be able to work with international postgraduate students, particularly as external examiner or supervisor.”

Under her leadership the Postgraduate Diploma in Translation, which was introduced by Combrink in the 1980s, was extended to a master’s degree in translation in 2000 and since 2002 and it has been possible to obtain a PhD in translation.

When asked why translations are still necessary, Feinauer answered by way of a few counter-questions: “How many people would have been able to read the Bible or fairy tales if they were not translated? How many people would have been aware of the writing of authors such as Marlene van Niekerk or Ingrid Winterbach if it had not been translated? Just look at what one can achieve on behalf of South Africa, Afrikaans and South African and Afrikaans culture by way of literary translations of these writers’ works. Translations open your world – in the literary and technical fields. I cannot imagine my life without translations. At Stellenbosch it is the translation programmes in particular that contribute to promoting Afrikaans in a multilingual environment, because in addition to Afrikaans, English and the official African languages, students can also choose French, German and Chinese as language options.”

Feinauer believes that there still is a lot of space for students to be trained in Afrikaans linguistics and/or Afrikaans translation.

“Students are still studying to become Afrikaans teachers, they still need to be able to write in Afrikaans. There also are many opportunities for Afrikaans journalists and for people who want to work in entertainment or the arts, including in TV, the performing arts and radio. As far as translation is concerned, people can still make a living working as Afrikaans/English/Afrikaans translators. The fact that student numbers in our Department – both undergraduate and postgraduate – have remained stable for the past ten years shows me that there still is a big need for Afrikaans.” – Stephanie Nieuwoudt