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Tuesday, 24 January 2012

“English –my Mother’s tongue.” (lol)

Christopher Szabo wrote that, a report in the Economist under the headline “Tongues under threat” argues that Black people in South Africa prefer English to their own languages and this could threaten these languages. Last year, the higher education minister Blade Nzimande, warned that: "There is a very real threat facing our African languages. He added: “We do [need] to change attitudes otherwise we face a very real danger that down the line African languages would disappear". Furthermore, the report in the Mail and Guardian said fewer people were taking higher education courses in indigenous African languages. (Read more: http://digitaljournal.com/article/302784#ixzz1kGTyVEJS)

All of this talk over the weekend about Government amending certain educational policy affecting the teaching of African languages in schools highlighted a very real issue that exists with regards to the disappearance of our indigenous languages. Are our languages going to disappear with our parent’s generation? This issue has plagued me for a while now, and I think I am realising more and more that this is becoming a very real crisis.
Now, I was part of the generation that was allowed into the ‘Model C’ schools at the tender age of 7, so I was in grade two when the Bantu education system was discontinued. This means that English has been my medium of instruction for most of my life. As such I consider it to be my ‘first’ language, so to speak. So much so that I actually dream in English (most people actually don’t give this much thought, in fact whenever I ask any of my friends what language their dreams are in, they laugh and accuse me of thinking too much.) This is not to say I am what you would call a ‘coconut’ because I speak my native mother tongue of Sepedi fluently. I have to say though; this is only because I took the decision when I was much younger to not let it get lost on me. So I had to make the extra effort to learn it, I never really did it at school. (I will not count the two years when I did in Primary school and Mrs Botha insisted on teaching us that the sun is on, like a light bulb, as opposed to shines or rises and sets. Nxa!) 

Speaking to my parents now, I can hear the regret that they have over the fact that while my siblings and I were growing up, they put more effort into ensuring that our English improved, so they even spoke to us in English at home. This was because at every parents meeting that they attended with our Primary school teachers it was drummed into their heads that in order for us to be able to cope with the curriculum, and be able to keep up with the other children at school; we needed to be more proficient in the English language.  So we grew up calling my parents by ‘whiter’ terms of endearment as opposed to the typically African ‘Mama le Papa’.

This issue of the disappearance of our African languages is especially apparent at funerals and weddings. You will notice that whenever young people are called on to speak, they do so in English. Usually they will start off by greeting everyone in their mother tongue, out of respect and then they will proceed to speak English for the rest of the time. Funerals are the worst, every single time that I have been asked to read the wreaths (some of which are written in one or more of the African languages) I have had a mild panic attack at the thought of having to stutter and um…my way through the messages that people so lovingly penned to the deceased
However, I have to point out that my generation is still better off. We mostly struggle to read and write our indigenous languages, but we can definitely speak the languages. Sadly the same can’t be said for the younger generation, also known as the ‘SMS generation’. (You know who you are; all of you peeps who use LOL, LMAO, BRB in everyday speech.) I was watching TV on Saturday morning, and happened to flick to a programme with two guys presenting, and you could hear that they were both struggling to express themselves in the African languages. Some sentences went something like: “Heita da guys ….English, English, English…so manje we are going to…more English…ngoba we are…English…English…” It was as funny as it was sad for me to watch.

I have concluded thus, that looking back isn’t going to solve our problems, so the question is what are we going to do to remedy this? Well, Government must do their part and then in my own small way I am going to make sure that my daughter will know how to speak, read and write (my mom will have to teach her the later) both Sesotho and Sepedi, the Joburg lingo she can learn on her own.  It is only but a drop in the Ocean, but it will be one more drop than there is now. Save our African languages- spread the word!!

Friday, 13 January 2012

I really suck at Maths!

So it is the beginning of a brand new year and as a result, I have been doing a lot of soul searching and reflecting on last year. And to be quite honest with you, I really cannot say that there is too much about 2011 that I can be proud of. Mind you, this is not a case of me being my usual self-deprecating self; it is me being brutally honest about myself, and to myself. This brings me to the point of this blog post. I want to make 2012 really count and one of the ways that I want to ensure that this happens is by studying towards another post-Matric qualification. Yes, I said it. I Want To Go Back To School.
What can I say? I guess I was inspired by the Matrics and the pass rate, and especially by all the eager young hopefuls queuing outside institutes of higher learning, blah...blah...blah. So I did my research and I can happily report that the options are boundless and limitless, if you want to study for sake of studying and having something nice to add to your CV so that you join the long line of other hopefuls who are also trawling sites like Career junction and Bizcommunity in search of work. However, if you already have a degree (that you now realise is as good as having just a Matric, because it happens to be a Bachelor of Arts in Corporate Communications, and in the job market, it may as well be called a ‘Bachelor of Everyone-who-hates-Maths-has-this-degree’) then studying something postgraduate to augment the qualification that you already have, will prove to be a little more challenging.
So I look in a couple of newspapers at potential jobs (with good salaries) that I could really sink my teeth into, in order to help me decide which direction I want to go in study-wise. It brings me to the realisation that without Maths and other subjects that require me to work with numbers, then I’m pretty much screwed. The problem is I really suck at maths! And I certainly will not be queuing to do Accounting in a hurry. So where does this leave me?
May I just add that one should not on reading this assume that I am one of those mediocre students who just managed to scrape through Matric. Quite the contrary actually, I got 3 distinctions, it is just that they happened to be for English, Afrikaans and History, and not for Maths or Science, although I did in fact pass both of them too. But I digress.
In order to earn what I would like to be earning, in a field that will not require me to be even remotely at home with numbers, algorithms or graphs, then what should I be studying? This is when I realise what the problem for so many school-leaving peeps is; the study options for people who excel in subjects other than the sciences are pretty much limited to: Tourism/ hospitality studies, Communication and Journalism, Marketing, the Arts, fashion or working in a call centre and so forth.
Of course there is also the increasingly popular option of being self employed and running your own business. I have personally been avoiding taking this particular path out of the fear that it may lead to hunger and possible bankruptcy. The irony is that I keep finding myself at this juncture every time I have to confront the prospect that I could be stuck in my dead-end full time job for another year. So here I am again, at this juncture, and that is why I have decided to study a business course that will help me in the event that I may want to start my own business. Now I just have to settle on an institution that offers great part time courses that will be relevant to what I want to get into, something that will help me to have the edge that I will surely need to survive as a young entrepreneur.
The morale of this particular story is that I did eventually find a great course that I want to study, and I think it is the perfect course to help give my current Communications degree some teeth. The problem is? Yup, you guessed it- I will not be able to avoid passing Maths, and like I said before. I really suck at Maths!  Do not be dismayed though, I will not give up. It just means that it is going to take me a little while longer to get around to breaking bank with million dollar pay cheque.