When words fail you
This issue’s Zulu word is isilungu. Isilungu is the language/customs/ways of white people.
However, even though it can mean any European language, it has come to be associated with English. The root word is umlungu – white person.
Hhayi, guys, isilungu is a treacherous language that betrays us all the time. I really don’t trust myself when speaking isilungu.
I was recently at a friend’s beautiful wedding and we spoke isiZulu, isiXhosa, Sesotho, Setswana and other indigenous languages with reckless abandon. I think isilungu was watching us do this and plotted its revenge because in the days that followed isilungu just would not play nice with me. The words just would not come out. And those that did come out were gibberish. I think I even bit off a portion of my tongue trying to form isilungu words.
If you go long periods of time without speaking isilungu, it becomes tricky getting back on it. It just won’t let you. I have seen colleagues of mine who are fluent in isilungu injure themselves in January trying to get back into isilungu mode. You see, when the African tongue spends a lot of time speaking African languages, like it does in Dizemba, your ability to speak isilungu suffers.
I think non-native isilungu speakers should not be required to speak isilungu at work or school until after Monday lunchtime. And coming out of the festive season, we should be given until Valentine’s Day to adjust. Jumping right back into isilungu is a real danger to us. It is so bad. There are times when you see someone is planning on speaking isilungu and you are tempted to jump across the table to stop them before they maim themselves. Isilungu is that dangerous.
This is also why I have respect for friends of mine who are in interracial relationships. Their commitment to speaking isilungu all the time is supernatural.
By the way, umlungu is not derogatory. It is just the word for white person.
– Melusi’s #everydayzulu by Melusi Tshabalala