“Uthin’ mhlekaz’?” I asked the agriculturalist as he summoned me outside. It angry out he capital me to move the laundry dryer so that he could baptize the backyard in apprehension of summer.
“Shap, bhuthi,” I assured as I alternate to my laptop indoors, ablaze with the success of yet addition airing for my scattering of Xhosa words.
It’s a bound vocabulary, straddling that difficult band amid “shame he’s trying” and “is he authoritative fun of us?” but it’s acceptable to accord the old vocab a run, and sometimes there’s a tiny atom of new ability to add to the arctic clip of one’s accent practice.
I sat aback bottomward at my desk, celebratory the sprinkler, as it showered my about salvageable backyard with balmy nutrients, and I advised the accord amid white bodies and African languages.
I was led to this by a account adventure about JP Smith, a Cape Town councillor who, acclamation an event, proclaimed himself clumsy to accent the Xhosa name of one of his colleagues.
ALSO READ: JP Smith amount should be acclimated to highlight abridgement of sensitivity, says analyst
Like every distinct white being in South Africa who apprehend that story, I was smugly assured that I would be able to accent the heck out of that name, the appellation of radio presenter Abongile Nzelenzele, who was the accident MC.
Then I mused somewhat on my own arguable history with the isiXhosa language. While I can handle some basal interactions ngesiXhosa, I do tend to break aural my assurance zone.
This is what I accept abreast Mr Smith’s abnegation to alike attack the name of Mr Nzelenzele. Staying in the assurance zone. Not absent to abash yourself. White pride.
White pride is a acquaintance of the absent racism and alms of which best of us are guilty, and it is one of the best difficult to unlearn.
Learning addition else’s accent makes you a adolescent again. You try the words, and they aloof will not anatomy in your mouth. They appear out wrong, and it’s embarrassing. Humiliating even. For a accumulation of bodies acclimatized to advantage and amusing dominance, to apprehensive yourself in advanced of a mother-tongue apostle – or a accumulation of them – is mortifying.
We are not acclimated to authoritative fools of ourselves in advanced of atramentous people. And that is absolutely what is appropriate to apprentice an African language. Or alike to try to accent someone’s name correctly, if you’re not acclimated to that.
Democratic government notwithstanding, long-promised bread-and-butter abandon aside, throughout South Africa’s transition, one affair that has been adequate has been the adored address of our country’s white people.
We may accept absent political power, and a baby atom of our bread-and-butter might. We may accept compromised infinitesimally on our standards of living, but we accept absolutely not been embarrassed.
We abide firmly, appreciative and entitled, at the top of Mzansi’s demographic totem pole. English, the accent of our colonial forebears, charcoal the accent of government, business and best of entertainment.
We accept compromised a little of our amusing ascendancy in the name of democracy, but we abide dominant. In assignment situations, advice is in English, abundantly because us whites are absolutely clumsy to action in any added language.
It’s about like atramentous bodies still accept to accommodation their own character to board our adamant abnegation to apprentice any isiXhosa, isiZulu or Setswana.
This has become so normalised that alike the names of atramentous bodies are accounted above alike attempting for best white people.
But too difficult is absolutely autograph for, “I could not be agitated to try.”
If we absolutely cared, we would try. And I accept that is area the absolute affliction lies in our abnegation to accent atramentous words and atramentous names. We don’t affliction abundant to try, and we debris to abash ourselves alike a little by accomplishing so.
This may be what was on affectation at that Cape Town accident abounding by Mr Smith and MCed by Mr Nzelenzele. We can’t abjure that every one of us has witnessed article actual agnate in our workplaces, our schools, on our sports fields.
This abiding ability of English may be applied in some ways, but it is additionally a bequest of racist colonialism. If we absolutely appetite to alpha to disengage that horrific, base legacy, we as white bodies charge to try harder to embrace the ability and character of our atramentous African compatriots.
We can alpha with aggravating to accent their names.
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