Start con­nect­ing, learn an African lan­guage

The Star Early Edition - - LETTERS -

WITH all the neg­a­tive vibes pol­lut­ing the na­tional con­ver­sa­tion, I was en­cour­aged by the life story of Ma­ri­etjie Bothma, as told on SAfm Sak­ina Kamwendo’s Fri­day fea­ture, which pro­files pos­i­tive and in­spir­ing South Africans.

Bothma is the vi­va­cious blonde woman who ap­pears on the King Pie and Gen­er­a­tions soapie re­launch tele­vi­sion ad­verts.

In the ads, she is flu­ent in Zulu, which she speaks with a per­fect ac­cent.

Her life pro­file is a clas­sic ex­am­ple of how peo­ple from greatly dis­ad­van­taged back­grounds can over­come their ad­ver­sity with sheer pluck and forge suc­cess­ful lives for them­selves.

Bothma was thrown out of her home by her par­ents at age 2. She tells of how she en­dured cruel abuse dur­ing her stay in a church-based chil­dren’s home.

It was enough to break the spirit of most peo­ple for the rest of their lives, but she tri­umphed over ad­ver­sity.

She learnt how to speak Zulu pri­mar­ily to be bet­ter able to sur­vive in her chal­leng­ing child­hood en­vi­ron­ment, but em­pha­sises how ben­e­fi­cial her knowl­edge has been in help­ing her bond with fel­low South Africans of a dif­fer­ent colour.

I have al­ways been ashamed that I was too lazy to learn an in­dige­nous African lan­guage, but now my ex­tremely pa­tient do­mes­tic helper is valiantly at­tempt­ing to drum some Zulu into my thick skull.

The ben­e­fits of be­ing able to con­verse in an African lan­guage are ob­vi­ously im­mense, not just in per­sonal and business in­ter­ac­tions – they would serve to greatly unite the frac­tured South African pop­u­la­tion.

If you can con­verse with some­one in their home lan­guage, it is so much eas­ier to un­der­stand their in­ner psy­che, and thereby build in­ter-racial trust.

If only many more white South Africans would follow the won­der­ful ex­am­ple of Bothma and also for­mer SABC TV staffer Camilla Walker, who was also thor­oughly pro­fi­cient in Zulu, a bright new era of in­ter-racial unity could surely be forged.

Much of the ex­treme neg­a­tiv­ity and the na­tional sport of whinge­ing in our coun­try is ex­ac­er­bated by ig­no­rance of our com­pa­tri­ots across the lan­guage bar­rier.

Most African peo­ple are mul­ti­lin­gual and if Bothma and Walker can learn an African lan­guage, so can we all.

A very wise old man named Nel­son Man­dela said: “If you talk to a man in a lan­guage he un­der­stands that goes to his head, but if you talk to him in his own lan­guage that goes to his heart.”

Come on fel­low white South Africans. Make that ef­fort to learn another lan­guage and it will soon be ev­i­dent how much more united this trou­bled coun­try is.

Let’s turn our de­struc­tive carp­ing men­tal­ity into a win­ning mind­set.

As our na­tional motto says !ke e:/xarra//ke, trans­lated as “Unity in Di­ver­sity”.

As another very wise man named Ma­hatma Gandhi said: “Be the change you want to see.”

Ang­harad Grif­fiths


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