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Bits and bobs about my life in my lovely home, Thatchwick Cottage, Pretoria, South Africa.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Thursday, 8 January, '09: 'Hello' in eleven official languages


Maria, who lives in Poland and is a veteran blogger in more ways than one, suggested that I add a Translator to my blog. Which I am doing...in process, as they say!

With that, the idea was sparked of chatting to you about the language policy of South Africa. In 1994, when the first democratic elections were held and the nation shifted, without bloodshed, to an entirely new Government of National Unity, the language issue was a thorny one, fraught with past bitterness and injustice. Previously we had a bilingual policy with two official languages: English and Afrikaans. This priviledged mainly white South Africans and excluded all other South African languages and their speakers. With reform came the entrenchment of language rights in the new Constitution of South Africa (1996). It was decided to give official status to all eleven South African languages. This development brought with it the usual hot public debate ranging from praise, optimism and hope to anger, cynicism and disparagement.

What has happened since?

Well, in my view, English has largely become the lingua franca of public discourse - certainly, the language of the formal workplace, education, government and commerce. But the multilingual policy, its intentions and the spirit thereof, are conciliatory and of merit.

Often our colloquial language is a mixture. I love to listen to South Africans chatting animatedly: moving from one language to another, peppering conversation with an approving 'Yebo!' (Yes!)

On my morning walk I am regularly hailed with: 'Morning, Mama' (Mother). Or more likely: 'Morning, Gogo' (Granny). Or on really 'bad hair' days, with 'Morning, MaGogo' (Old Granny)!

So, Hi there! in eleven languages:

Sanibonani (isiZulu)
Molo (isiXhosa)
Hallo (Afrikaans)
Thobela (Sepedi)
Dumela(Setswana)
Lumela (Sesotho)
Abusheni (Xitsonga)
Sanibona (siSwati)
Avuwani(Tshivenda)
Salibonani (isiNdebele)
Hello (English)

5 comments:

Raph G. Neckmann said...

Salibonani, Eleanor!

I think that is the one I like best - very melodic sounding.

It would be lovely to know the word for giraffe in those languages, please?!!

Pam said...

These sound so lovely to say out loud...and yes, melodic. Thank you for sharing this.

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

These all look so musical! I could think of so many words I'd love you to translate!!

The Quintessential Magpie said...

Sanibona, Eleanor!

Just wanted to say that you are awarded that friendship award on my blog. On the ssecond week I was posting on the internet, you left one of the friendliest messages on a post, and you made my day! :-) You may not have known that, but you did. And I appreciate it. I was trying to update my sidebar, and you are definitely on there. So, congrautations, gogo (alothough I would rather say, Beautiful Lady, but don't know the translation! ;-)

XO,

Sheila :-)

The Quintessential Magpie said...

And please fogive my typos in the above post. I'm just getting up and was up late. My eyes haven't adjusted completely. ;-)

XO,

Sheila