After enduring a 22-hour trip and fighting jet-lag, we have finally made it to South Africa to start our spring quarter abroad! I know it’s the beginning of my fourth week here, but I personally have just gotten the hang of things around here – even though there’s still a lot left to learn.
For one, we all are making a pretty big effort into trying to learn some words and phrases in two South African languages, Afrikaans and Xhosa (2 out of 11 official languages!). These two languages (along with English) are the two most commonly used by people in the Cape Town and Stellenbosch areas.
Both have been pretty difficult to understand, since Afrikaans is a derivative of Dutch (sometimes called baby Dutch) and Xhosa is not of the same language family as English. Xhosa is by far the harder one for me to understand, especially when trying to use the correct accent. Xhosa is one of the African languages that uses click sounds for the following letters: C (alveolar click), Q (palatal click), and X (lateral click). Unfortunately, I can’t pronounce any of the click sounds—yet! – but I’m adamant on learning to pronounce at least one.
I feel that it’s very important to learn the language of the community, at the very least basic phrases, in order immerse yourself into the culture of the area, as well as be able to converse with those in the community to make them more comfortable. After all, it is their home.
I just hope to be able to perform a quick greeting and conversation with native speakers in these two languages by the end of our program, with a much better accent than I do now.