Oo! Usithetha kakuhle isiXhosa, sisi!

I started ‘seriously’ learning Xhosa today. Over the last few months I’ve been listening to the tapes but I haven’t sat down to read the book and listen to the conversations in depth. I’m using Teach Yourself Xhosa that I had to order in the US as the bookshops in Johannesburg only had TY English and TY Afrikaans. I can’t remember if there were other methods there, but if there were they were there to teach English and Afrikaans only. It’s clear which languages are of higher status in South Africa.

I’m a fan of the Teach Yourself series. I used it to learn Spanish before going to Mexico many, many moons ago. I taught English as a foreign language in France and too many of the instructional books barely used the space given to them. I’d always combine material but whenever it was a matter of teaching business English it was hard to keep my eyes open. In Brooklyn I taught French and Spanish classes to third graders, before and after school. My main objective was to have everyone speaking as much as possible so we sang mostly movement based songs and played games that involved moving around too. A few of the games involved question and answer forms that are key to communication. What I like about the TY Xhosa book is that naturalistic conversations are used to introduce language forms. The first chapter had two women meeting on a plane and then in chapter two one of the women visits the other woman at home and we meet their husbands, and a son. The two families are the Thamsanqa family and the Murray family (uncanny ;-). When Thandi and Jenny meet on the plane, Thandi is impressed by Jenny’s mastery of Xhosa; at the Murray’s house Thandi and Themba ask Jenny’s son David if he is learning Xhosa at school. The Murray’s speak Xhosa without an accent, as far as I can tell, but the premise that they are not native speakers allows for discussion around learning the language, so we can say things like “Oo! Usithetha kakuhle isiXhosa, sisi!” (“You speak Xhosa well, sisi!”). I’m looking forward to the day someone says that to me 🙂


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