TRUE LIFE Meet the white man who speaks Tshivenda fluently

Many Africans struggle with learn­ing to speak TshiVenda, but Con­nie Stry­dom speaks the lan­guage fluently

Move! - - CONTENTS - By Boi­tumelo Mat­shaba

CON­NIE Stry­dom (21) from Musina in Lim­popo be­came an overnight sen­sa­tion af­ter a video of him speak­ing flu­ent TshiVenda sur­faced on so­cial me­dia, shocking both black and white South Africans. Con­nie says he be­lieves white peo­ple should learn other South African lan­guages. He also speaks to Move! about be­ing fa­mous, grow­ing up poor and how he saved the love of his life.

HOW HE LEARNED TSHIVENDA

Con­nie grew up on a farm, where he learned TshiVenda from the farm work­ers' chil­dren.

“I loved those times be­cause th­ese chil­dren were not just my friends, but my broth­ers. There was no black or white, we were just friends hav­ing a good time on the farm. I learned to trust the VhaVenda peo­ple more than any other cul­ture be­cause of this ex­pe­ri­ence. I grew up speak­ing TshiVenda, but I was about eight years old when I learned to speak Afrikaans. My par­ents loved it and found it funny. Other farm­ers did not ap­prove of me speak­ing Tshivenda and not be­ing able to speak Afrikaans. But I was never both­ered by their opin­ions,” he says.

He re­mem­bers an en­counter he had when he was in Grade 10 at a new school.

“I knew no one at the new school, so I used to roam around the school on my own. One day I passed a group of about 12 boys who were talk­ing about me in TshiVenda and thought I didn’t un­der­stand them. I ap­proached them and told them in TshiVenda to re­peat what they had just said about me to my face. I have never seen a group of boys run so fast. Those boys be­came my friends not long af­ter that” Con­nie re­calls.

SHOCKING THE NA­TION

When the video of Con­nie speak­ing TshiVenda sur­faced on so­cial me­dia, it soon went vi­ral, shocking both black and white South Africans alike. “Many peo­ple are shocked or find it ex­tremely funny when they hear me speak the lan­guage. I some­times chirp in peo­ple’s con­ver­sa­tions ran­domly just to make them laugh and shock them,” says Con­nie.

Ac­cord­ing to Con­nie, all white South Africans should learn at least one lan­guage out­side of English and Afrikaans. “The ma­jor­ity of black peo­ple can ei­ther speak or un­der­stand English and Afrikaans. White stu­dents should also study one African lan­guage as a third lan­guage in school.”

He goes on to say that South Africa is not grow­ing as a re­sult of the sep­a­ra­tion be­tween black and white peo­ple. “We would put other coun­tries to shame if we work to­gether be­cause we have the po­ten­tial to be great,” he says.

Be­ing able to speak TshiVenda is not enough for Con­nie.

“I can also un­der­stand Se­pedi and Setswana and I am in the process of learn­ing those two lan­guages.” He also wants to be the first South African to know all 11 of­fi­cial lan­guages.

MANY PEO­PLE ARE SHOCKED OR FIND IT EX­TREMELY FUNNY WHEN THEY HEAR ME SPEAK THE LAN­GUAGE

GROW­ING UP POOR

While grow­ing up, Con­nie and his family were poor liv­ing on a farm his fa­ther bought on credit years be­fore. He re­mem­bers his fa­ther work­ing on the farm from 5am to 8pm ev­ery­day just to make ends meet.

“I was in high school when one day my fa­ther came home with tears run­ning down his face and told to us that the farm was paid up. We were all very con­tent that my fa­ther’s work had fi­nally paid off. Things have since picked up and he is now run­ning a suc­cess­ful cit­rus farm, selling the fruit all over the world,” he says.

Con­nie fur­ther shares his love for oth­ers.

“I some­times stop on the side of the road to speak to home­less peo­ple and find out how and why they ended up on the streets. Not all of them made bad de­ci­sions to end up where they are and we need to be sym­pa­thetic to­wards them,” he says.

SAV­ING THE LOVE OF HIS LIFE

Con­nie met his girl­friend a few months ago when the two started send­ing each other pri­vate mes­sages on In­sta­gram.

“She told me about her abu­sive re­la­tion­ship with her then boyfriend. I don’t be­lieve a man should ever raise his hand on a wo­man. I even­tu­ally got tired of it and spon­ta­neously drove to Dur­ban to res­cue her. I booked my­self into a ho­tel and she sneaked out of her boyfriend’s apart­ment and came to stay with me. I called her mother and told her ev­ery­thing that hap­pened. She thanked me for sav­ing her daugh­ter’s life and drove from Joburg to Dur­ban. Upon her mother’s ar­rival I told her that she is now in good hands and headed back to Lim­popo. She drove back with her mother to Joburg and I slept bet­ter that night know­ing she is in safe hands,” he says.

Con­nie and his girl­friend made things of­fi­cial when she vis­ited him in Musina a few weeks later and not long af­ter that the cou­ple be­gan to live to­gether.

“She is a city girl and strug­gled to ad­just to liv­ing on a farm, so I de­cided it is best we moved to Gaut­eng,” he says.

FAC­ING CHAL­LENGES

Like any re­la­tion­ship, Con­nie and his girl­friend have their fair share of chal­lenges. They are both un­em­ployed and make ends meet by do­ing odd jobs here and there.

With Con­nie be­ing recog­nised, more jobs seem to be com­ing his way. But he says this fame al­most ru­ined his re­la­tion­ship with the love of his life.

“I let the fame get to me and be­gan ly­ing to her and com­ing home late. I was con­stantly on my phone be­cause I was in de­mand. I then re­alised how my ac­tions were neg­a­tively af­fect­ing us and stopped ev­ery­thing I was do­ing be­cause I did not want to lose this spe­cial lady,” he says.

Speak­ing about fu­ture plans, Con­nie says he has fi­nally made it on TV.

“I am fea­tured in a TV advertisement where I am speak­ing a bit of TshiVenda. I worked along­side comedian Trevor Gumbi on that advertisement,” he says.

Con­nie Stry­dom says he is now in the process of learn­ing to speak Se­pedi and Setswana fluently, which he can only un­der­stand

Con­nie re­cently ap­peared in a TV advertisement where he speaks TshiVenda

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