Tag Archives: Xhosa

Xhosa

I do not give any guarantee for the spelling but due to the huge demand (one email), I thought that it may interest you to know some of the very, very basic words in isiXhosa. Here you go:

Molo – Hello

Ewe – Yes – also Answer to Molo

Haij – No – pronounced like Hey, took me five weeks to get it.

Haijbo – Oh no, used frequently.

Kunjani – How are you?

Ndiphilile – I am fine

Kunjaniwena – And how are you?

Ndiphililenam- I am fine, too

Mlungu – milk, white person (usually meaning me when I hear it)

Nkosi – Thank you

Nkosi kakhulu – Thank you very much.

Andikuva – I did not hear you/I do not understand you

Andias – I do not know.

I know and understand some more words/sentences but I am not sure if it would useful for anybody out there to write them down. Just to give you an idea, I know how to say: The rain is coming; The reverend is out of office; Can I have water, please?; I learn isiXhosa.

The story with the clicks is a little bit complicated to describe. So please read this more as a try. There are basically three clicks: “c”, “x” and “q”. The “c” is the easiest one, pronounced as if you were blaming a child “tstststs”. The “x” is a click you make with your tongue and the “q”, well, I never performed this one correctly I think. It is close to the noise you would make with tongue when you want to imitate a trabbing horse.

As I told you, that’s a try.

One thing I realised is that as long as I do not speak this language, I would always be an outsider among the people I life with. I am excluded of basic conversation as soon as there is more than one person.

I also came to a point to realise that even if I learned the language and improved it to be fluent, that there would still be the differences in culture and traditions. And since this is a question of growing up with, I know that I could never become a part of this society.

Not to mention the question of my skin colour…

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Instinct

I have lost my instinct. When it comes to my personal safety, I do not know anymore when I can walk alone and when I do better to stay in the house. In France or Germany I knew most of the time when and where I was safe, I knew which places to avoid by which time of the day and which routes to take in order to keep away from trouble. Here, I’ve been told more than once that white people in the townships are more seen as dollars on feed than human beings and that you better take care not to walk around alone. On the other hand, I feel quite safe in the neighbourhood but can I really walk alone? I feel silly when I always ask for somebody to accompany me but I cannot evaluate the danger…

Frustration

One of my weaknesses is certainly the lack of patience and one very good advice I got before I came here was: Be patient. But, it is not easy to cope with frustration, when friends do not show up and when thinks do not work as I want them to work. What do you do with yourself if you have to stay in the house even if it is a beautiful day but there is nobody to go out with… What do you do if you have to stay in the house because the two options of going out reveal themselves as not very reliable persons? Of course, you could iron some clothes, watch TV or cook but the only thing you really want is to go out…

Challenges

As a matter of fact I have to admit that one thing I failed to learn here is Xhosa. The grammar of Xhosa is entirely different to any European grammar I know so far. But whenever I spent some time with an African family or community I cannot avoid noticing that you do not belong to a society as long as you do not speak the dominating language. I realised how hard it must be for immigrants coming to Germany or France without any knowledge of the language. And even if you can use perhaps English as working language, in the families, between friends, on TV, etc. you can be quite lost. I do not mind not to understand sometimes. It is fine with me and I just let my mind drift away. But sometimes, when you meet people in the street, and they speak to the person accompanying you, I would love to understand without an interpreter…