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Reverend fills in Xhosa language gaps

Date Released: Thu, 4 April 2013 13:33 +0200

Amid a sea of young university students who will graduate from Rhodes University next weekend, 79-year-old reverend JC "Koos" Oosthuysen prepares to receive his doctorate in African Languages.

Living in Grahamstown since last year to work on his thesis, Oosthuysen already holds a Masters in Theology from Yale University in the States but decided to continue his studies of Bantu languages, which he began at the University of Stellenbosch in the 1950s.

Born in 1933 in Western Pondoland to Christian missionary parents, Oosthuysen has an extensive knowledge of the isiXhosa language and is a fluent speaker.

“My amaMpondo playmates were Xhosa and we attended school together and I spoke isiXhosa throughout my childhood,” Oosthuysen said.

After his studies at Stellenbosch he became involved in missionary work, serving isiXhosa-speaking congregations.

His ability to speak, read and write isiXhosa also led to his involvement in the translation of many documents and books used in churches.

“I played the leading role in producing translations of hymns that were not previously available in isiXhosa,” he explained.

One of his biggest accomplishments is working with the Bible Society of South Africa in co-ordinating the 1996 translation of the Bible from English into isiXhosa - a task which took 21 years to complete.

But what is of most interest to this academic is the grammaticality of isiXhosa and its misuse in both the Bible and modern use.

He based his PhD thesis on the grammar of isiXhosa as it is used in the Revised Union Version of the 1942 Bible, believing that “the study of the grammar of isiXhosa is not yet complete”.

Besides a keen interest in philosophy, Oosthuysen also enjoys photography and travelling with his wife, Lucia.

Still in Grahamstown, Oosthuysen is currently working on a revised version of his 1958 Leer Self Xhosa Afrikaans-to-Xhosa guide, which is no longer in print.

He will graduate on 6 April at the 1820 Settlers' Monument.

Article by: Ndileka Lujabe

Source: Grocotts