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Celebrate Language Print E-mail
Ceri Balston   
Wednesday, 20 February 2008
“A different language is a different vision of life” - Federico Fellini

Celebrate LanguageIt’s International Mother Tongue Day (21st February) and where better to celebrate this occasion than in a country with such a rich and diverse cultural and linguistic tapestry as South Africa.

Unless you’ve been living in a cave all your life you’ll know by now that South Africa has 11 official languages; Afrikaans, English, isiNdebele, isiXhosa, isiZulu, Sepedi, Sesotho, Setswana, siSwati, Tshivenda, Xitsonga. What you might not know is that 14 other languages are also mentioned in our constitution; Khoi, Nama and San languages, sign language, Arabic, German, Greek, Gujarati, Hebrew, Hindi, Portuguese, Sanskrit, Tamil, Telegu and Urdu.

One of the best ways to celebrate language and to celebrate being South African is to make the effort to learn another language.

Which Language?

“But there are so many, how do I choose?”

Most Popular
After English and Afrikaans the most widely spoken language of the 11 eleven official languages is isiZulu with almost 10 million South Africans (23%) speaking it as their first language and many more speaking it as their second language. Xhosa with 17% is the second most widely spoken, followed by Afrikaans and Sepedi (Northern Sotho).

Who’s Around You
It’s a good idea to choose a language that the people who you interact with on a daily basis speak. If you’re in KZN this is most likely to be Zulu, PE or East London is often Xhosa, Pretoria or Bloemfontein, Afrikaans, and Jo’burg, well it could be anything. Ask the people around you what they speak and base your decision on what you’ll find most useful and which you’ll most easily be able to practise.

Start Learning
There’s lots of ways to go about learning a new language, here are just a few.

Attend a Course

A quick Google of “Learn South African Languages” will reveal links to many language schools across the country. The prices vary but with a little research you’ll be sure to find an affordable one with good teachers, you’ll also be able to ask questions and practise will fellow students.

Buy A DVD, DVD-ROM, CD-ROM or Book
One of the cheapest options to get you going is to buy a DVD or CD for your computer with interactive software helping you learn the basic phrases and vocabulary, this is a great way to start practising and building up your confidence. These can be found everywhere these days including; computer shops, book stores and supermarkets. Of course there are also many books available in stores that will likely go into more depth, so feel free to explore this route as well.

Get a Friend to Teach You
It’s very unlikely that in your day to day activities you don’t come into contact with someone who’s mother tongue is different to your own. Ask them if they can teach you some basic phrases, maybe schedule some time together to learn new ones and practise things you’ve already learnt. It’s probably a good idea to get a small exercise book to jot down any new words or phrases so you can practise them by yourself.

Practise Makes Perfect
Unless you have an impressive computer-esque recall memory it is unlikely that any new knowledge will stick unless you practise it.

Family Time
In your household decide on a time when you’re all going to practise your new language, maybe around the dinner table or perhaps for the whole day, use the phrases and words you’ve learnt and try to introduce some new ones each time.

Daily Interactions
Have you ever stopped to think how many opportunities you have to interact with people who speak another language? Think about the times you pop into your local supermarket, you can chat to the cashier and bag packer, and when you stop to fill up with petrol take the opportunity to converse with the attendant and even ask him or her to supplement your vocabulary, do you know the Zulu for “tyre pressure”, “fill it up” or “please can you clean my windscreen”?

Watch the Soapies
We’re very fortunate in South Africa in that our local soapies are subtitled in English whenever the dialogue switches language, try and follow what the actors are saying and look out for the phrases you’re familiar with. There are of course other excellent shows on the airwaves and don’t forget the News which may, with its fast patter, test your concentration to the limit but it will nonetheless help your ears attune to the subtleties and nuances of the language.

Phrase Chart
To get you started here’s a chart of some useful words and phrases. Good luck and have fun!

English Afrikaans isiNdebele isiXhosa isiZulu Sepedi
Hello Hallo Lotjhani Bhota Sawubona Dumela
How are you? Hoe gaan dit met jou? Unjani? Unjani? Unjani? O kae?
I am fine Dit gaan goed met my Ngikhona Ndiyaphila Ngisaphila Ke gona
Goodbye Totsiens Salakuhle Hamba kakuhle Hamba kahle Gabotse
Good luck Voorspoed Iba netjhudu Yanga ungaphumelela Ngikufisela inhlanhla Mahlatse
Yes Ja Iye Ewe yebo ee
No nee Awa Hayi cha aowa
Please asseblief  Ngiyabawa Nceda ngiyakucela hle
Thank you dankie Ngiyathokoza Ndiyabulela ngiyabonga ke a leboga
Excuse me verskoon my Ngitshidele Uxolo Uxolo Ntshwarele
I am sorry Ek is jammer Ngiyacolisa Ndicela uxolo Ngiyaxolisa Ke maswabi
I love you Ek is lief vir jou Ngiyakuthanda Ndiya kuthanda Ngiyakuthanda Ke a go rata
English Sesotho Setswana siSwati Tshivenda Xitsonga
Hello Dumela Dumela Sawubona Ndaa / Aa Avuxeni
How are you? O kae? O kae? Unjani? Vho vuwa hani? Ku njhani?
I am fine Ke teng Ke teng Ngikhona Nne ndo takala vhukuma Ndzi kona
Goodbye Tsamaya hantle Tsamaya sentle Sala kahle Kha vha sale Sala kahle
Good luck Ke o lakaletsa mohlohonolo Masego Inhlanhla lenhle Mashudu mavhuya Ndzi ku navelela mikateko
Yes ee ee yebo Ee Ina
No tjhee nnyaa cha Hai E-e
Please hle tsweetswee ngiyacela Ndi khou tou humbela Ndza kombela
Thank you ke a leboha ke a leboga ngiyabonga Ndi a livhuwa ndzi khense ngopfu
Excuse me Tshwarelo nxae lucolo Kha vha mpfarele ndzi khomeli
I am sorry Ntshwarele Ke maswabi Ngiyacolisa Ndi khou humbela pfarelo Ni kombela ku khomeriwa
I love you Ke a o rata Ke a go rata Ngiyakutsandza Ndi a ni funa Ndza ku rhandza

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