Masifunde: Why You Should Be Learning Xhosa if You’re in the Western Cape
Masifunde is a new Cape-Town based Xhosa instructional project aimed at teaching conversational Xhosa in an informal, small group environment. We spoke to Mzoli Tempi about the project’s motivations.
In life general, nothing is easy. One has to want to learn, being young or old is the same. Xhosa is not tough at all. The rules for learning any language are the same – read, write and speak. I am more focused on conversational Xhosa but you would find that what we call conversational/social is more formal in general
What inspired you and gave you the idea to offer language lessons?
People like you, (laughs). I was forced to speak English every time I am with my friends, nobody wanted to understand me in my own language. I felt that if I have to preserve my friendship with all my friends, let me start teaching them the language. The most inspiring was the response I got. I felt like people have always wanted this bit could not get somebody who would understand them.
So, in your opinion… learning Xhosa… in the Western Cape… would you say it’s a responsible or beneficial thing to do? For example: If you’re a businessperson, or just an ordinary person who doesn’t speak it… or do you think perhaps that it really should become a part of everyone’s life?
All of the above. If it benefits you as an individual, then it’s a responsible thing to do. I have come across so many people who cannot express themselves fully in a certain language and they end up losing something in the process.
I have also been lucky (though i was forced by circumstance) that I speak fluent English…imagine having 3 very skilled workers in your payroll, but could not communicate with them because their English is not good or your Xhosa is very bad?
I have observed the benefits, like in the service stations, restaurants … almost everywhere. You get in and start greeting people in their language, they go “wooooooow” and kind of bend the rules for you (chuckles). I also have always felt that it’s respectful to acknowledge that different people speak different languages. If you can make an effort to come across the bridge, most people will do the same from the other side…
In a sense, as an English speaker I occupy a position of advantage in this society, because in general, it is accepted that English is the language you communicate in. When i have tried to speak Xhosa (or German, or Zulu or whatever), I often feel embarrassed because I feel I’m doing it so wrong, and may be insulting someone. How can people overcome that fear ?
Exactly. With 11 official languages in our country, let’s all meet in the middle of the road. I get respect when I try something new, the same with language, people will respect and assist you when you try to speak and you will eventually speak.