Language brings us closer

IF I sound xenophobic, please excuse me. In the past when we darkies met in the street and wanted to be friendly or ask for directions or something, we spoke in one of our African languages.

IF I sound xenophobic, please excuse me. In the past when we darkies met in the street and wanted to be friendly or ask for directions or something, we spoke in one of our African languages.

We would never use English because this was frowned on. You were accused of trying to be "white". Besides, some people could not speak English.

Anyway, we also like speaking loudly, to the irritation of some. Dare I say it is our culture?

In any event, it is tiring speaking English. The person you were addressing would respond in a commonly spoken African language. It was either Sotho or Zulu. We had to know one of them.

Now it is different. When you address them in one of these languages they just stare at you because they do not understand what you are saying. And you are forced to speak English.

In the past, when you got into a lift and saw darkie brothers and sisters, you either started a conversation or joined theirs. Now it is all quiet because we are not sure who would understand us.

I once went to a company and, as is my habit, spoke to the security guard in Sotho. His response was, "Turn left and go straight." He did not hear my question and sent me to the wrong place.

When I came back, I asked him why he sent me to the wrong place? I said he was manning the entry point and should make an effort to learn an African language.

His retorted that there were too many African languages. This was rich coming from a brother from an African country where they have more dialects than in South Africa.

If you want to get to the heart of a person, the best way to do so would be to learn his language.

I appeal to my brothers and sisters from the north to make an attempt to learn one of our languages so that we could get to know one another better. If we still have a Lagos, Accra and a Kinshasa in South Africa, we would never integrate.

This is what fuels xenophobia.

PFG Mtimkulu, Political Sciences Department, Unisa

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