We ought to protect our tribal languages……

07 Aug

“Fluency in the language of Shakespeare is regarded as a sign of modernity, sophistication and power.” __The Economist.

Source: The Economist

What I would like to believe as the most informative English publication, The Economist, published an article under the headline “South African languages, Tongues under threat” with the sub heading, “English is dangerously dominant.” This article suggests that English is so dominant in South Africa that it threatens the survival of some of the tribal languages in the country.

The tribal languages (i.e. Ndebele, Tswana, Zulu and others) are rarely used in South Africa for official purposes. Take for instance, the Parliament, the majority of the members in the house are people whose home language is not English, but yet English dominates the house.

Visit South African tertiary institutions, especially (the predominantly white universities) you’d swear that tribal languages do not exist in South Africa. The reality of the situation is that people from designated groups (non-whites) feel very less intelligent when they converse in their own language.

It seems that it is an accepted norm that in order to prove your intelligence you have to be proficient in the Shakespearean language. We tend to laugh out loud (lol) when a fellow brother breaks the English language, mispronounce the words and seem to show difficulty in understanding the idioms and proverbs of the language. Normally, the victims are the ones from ill-resourced, township schools who were only exposed to English by reading The Daily Sun.  Such students later turn out to be social outcast because their fellow brothers expect them to speak the language with absolute fluency and with a certain accepted accent.

You have to twang brother!!!!

The sad reality is that, in pursuit of our own intelligence, we are slowly killing our own languages. It is up to me as a Ndebele person to protect my language, use it extensively where possible and promote it whenever needed, and by so doing I will be defending my own language from extinction.

My friends, as much as English is accepted as the international language of doing business, it is not the symbol of advancement, modernity and prestige. Speak your language. If you are addressing the masses in conference and the language slip away, maintain your composure, rock up a paragraph in your language and after that ask whether the audience understands.

If you do not speak your home language with the same eloquence as you do with English, then be very worried because you contribute to the demise of your own language.

Defend your home language, practice the language and start reading novel written in indigenous language.

The English language is no way superior to my own, and I ought to defend my home language. Let’s take charge, let’s converse in our home language.

I take my hat off to the likes of Keorapetse Kgositsile, Moses “Mr Cellular” Mahlangu, Mhlobo Jadezweni and others who continue relentlessly to defend indigenous languages through teaching and research in the field of African languages in our universities.

Start now, you meet me in the street, please say Lotjhani, Dumela or Sawubona and I will respond accordingly.

Let’s embrace our languages.


Posted by on August 7, 2011 in General


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4 responses to “We ought to protect our tribal languages……

  1. Nkosinathi

    August 7, 2011 at 7:50 pm

    SInce 2009 I felt that my life had this watershed barrier when it comes to language…these division has actually divided my life into two equal parts…you article is a true reflection of my life in varsity and I have to admit that you are on point and from now I should try and speak my mother language as often as I can….

    yihle into oyenzako mfo, kungathi ungahlabela phambili ubhale nangesikhethu ngelinye ilanga mfo.

    • Dumi-rocks

      August 8, 2011 at 11:25 am

      Ngithokoza kwamambala mfo, ngizakhe ngizame ukubala ngelimu lesikhethu, mhlabe iSetswana so.

      Do not abandon English completely, but when you are with people like me, do speak IsiNdebele……

    • Charl Heydenrych

      August 14, 2011 at 9:22 am

      The English really made it easy for all of us to communicate – that you you must admit.

      Jy moet mooi loop boet en jou taal beskerm!

      • Dumi-rocks

        August 14, 2011 at 12:44 pm

        Hmm, Charl, In no way have I failed to admit that the English language makes communication easy.

        As much as you commented in Afrikaans, that I also fully understand, I will continue protecting my language.

        Thank you!


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