Saturday, March 03, 2007

What language do you speak?

If you lived in Italy, you would more than likely need to learn Italian to survive. If you lived in France, French. But what about if you lived in a country where there were eleven official languages? Like South Africa. And that doesn’t include another dozen unofficial languages.

Our life, lately, seems to be consumed with dealing with “other” languages. Bible studies are often translated with a number of different languages spoken by the members. Recently, we had a class where four spoke English as a second language. Two of the women couldn’t communicate with each other, nor could we communicate with half of them. They came from four different countries and backgrounds, so as you can see, it can get a bit complicated.

Add to that, Scott and Allen are in the process of learning Portuguese. While English gets you by to an extent in Zambia and Zimbabwe, there are few English speakers in Mozambique.

Scott and Allen in Portuguese language class.

We aren’t the only ones affected by language. Our children have been studying Afrikaans school on a small scale, but now that Gabriel is in fourth grade, it’s become a much more important part of the curriculum. He’s facing dictations, memorizing pieces, reading, and tests. The problem comes in when the school they attend is English and doesn’t allow them to speak Afrikaans except for in Afrikaans classes. This is to help those learning English as a second language, but what about our kids who don’t speak Afrikaans? Add to that, English is spoken most places, so unless you speak Afrikaans at home, the learning becomes a challenge to say the least.

Last week, Gabriel brought home a poem he had to memorize. We called up a friend who went over the poem with him then recorded it onto my phone. For the rest of the evening, Scott and Gabriel practiced the poem until Gabriel was able to say it. We’re planning to hire a tutor soon who will help Gabriel prepare for some major tests coming up at the end of the year that he needs to pass.

Scott and Gabriel practicing his poem with my phone

So, what language do you speak? Visit a country like South Africa and you will find people who speak multiple languages. One of the Christians we work with, who also acts as a translator for us at times, speaks about eight. It’s pretty humbling to me at times!

If you’re intested in learning more about languages in South Africa, check out this link: South African Languages



1 comment:

  1. Wow! I love reading about your journeys. For my new wip, I've been learning about India--and they have so many different languages, along with a common language. But that's different than *living* among such diversity. WOW!