Influence of culture in Language

The I would like to kick-start Week 4 with how culture has birthed and influenced up to 11 official languages in South Africa.
Our nation is most commonly known as being rich in culture and diversity. We believe in the fact that the beauty of our nation lies within our variety.

We have 11 official languages in South Africa. Most of these languages are divided into two main groups. There is the Nguni group which includes isiXhosa, isiSwati, isiNdebele, and isiZulu. The Nguni languages sound more or less the same. The only difference is that the Xhosa language generally uses more clicks which includes ( xs, qs, ca, etc ). Followed by the Zulu language which uses the same clicks but has a lesser effect.

The other dominant group includes Sepedi, Sesotho, and Setswana.
They belong to the same group and have many words borrowed from each other. If you can speak one of the three languages, it is easier to learn the other two languages.

Then we have Tsongas and Vendas. It is generally easy for people to learn Tsonga if they know Venda and vice versa. Tsonga people get along better. They have a belief that they’d rather marry from each other’s tribes than any other tribe. This is because they have more or less the same cultural practices and beliefs.

Each language can consist of multiple dialects. For example, the Pedis have khelobedu and Setlokwa found mostly in Limpopo province. The Zulus have Lala and Qwabe, found in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, and Mpumalanga.

Our national Television mostly favored the Ngunis while the other languages were not included. I have noticed within the past two years that a lot has changed. I see TV shows which also represent cultures from other tribes. There are even interpreters to cater to the deaf community. We have commercial channels like Limpopo TV which showcases the beauty and diverse cultures of the Venda-Tsonga group in different dialects. Make it a point that when you come to South Africa, you also visit Limpopo. We have a mine of creativity, talent, and culture.

We have an additional language – sign language. Sign language is the one that deaf and dumb people use to communicate. I got the opportunity to learn through my mom as she is also deaf.

In different languages, we address people in plural form as if we were addressing more than one person at once. We do this as a form of respect. For example, when a younger person comes across an elderly person. In Zulu, we say ‘sanibonani’. Sanibonani is a word meaning ‘hello to all of you’.
It may be surprising that someone will say hello to all of you when he’s only referring to one person. It is believed for the longest time that a person does not travel alone, but travels with his ancestors. Therefore when you greet an elder person, it is believed that he/she is a representative of not only themselves but of ancestors.

With the way you address people, we can detect your level of respect. There’s a certain tone and usage of words to check whether or not one is respectful. Therefore it is advisable that when you want to learn some of our languages, you should be able to differentiate between the way you speak to your peers and the way you speak to elders.

Language is the road map of a culture. It tells you where its people come from and where they are going.

Rita Mae Brown

He who knows no foreign languages knows nothing of his own

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

You can never understand one language until you understand at least two.

Geoffrey Willans

A re kopaneng gape letsatsi le le tlago – Kea Leboga. Let’s meet again tomorrow /Thank you.

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From my heart to yours


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