Language: Speaking South African

2010-01-21 00:00

I’VE increasingly noticed various accents coming out of the mouths of my children.

Having always been interested in languages and having started and not quite finished language courses in Xhosa, French and Italian, I’ve developed a keen ear for the sound of languages in their local dialects.

Depending on who they interact with the most on any given day, Maddi or Hannah will come home and slip in a word or two in their daily conversations that have decidedly rainbow-nation accents. Car sometimes becomes “kaar” fax becomes “fex”, water becomes “horter”, and my personal favourite cringer is the use of the word “yoos” as a shortened version of the plural of you, which I know does not exist grammatically, but was probably invented in Durban somewhere.

It’s quite a fascinating thing to observe. Hannah has no problems pronouncing Zulu words with seemingly perfect diction, although she battles with Afrikaans, speaking it with a scary English accent. My natural inclination was to try to correct them, but then I realised that something’s happening here which we were never privy to as pre-apartheid children.

Despite the obvious cultural inter­mingling, our South African dialect (yes, I don’t know what the heck that means either) is taking on a new look and feel. Soon we won’t be able to make fun of Afrikaners and their “Dutchman” accent when they speak English. Or that charming accent Naas Botha was trying to imitate in the TV ad by pretending to be a South African Indian. Don’t even get me started on the Cape coloured accent.

I don’t rightly know if one should embrace these quirks about our culture or if we should all be striving to speak the king’s Zulu or the queen’s English, but one thing that is pretty obvious is that our children are redefining what is known as a South African accent.

Have you heard the rugby guys doing their interviews on TV? Brian Habana, John Smit and Victor Matfield all sound the same these days. My guess is in future, the South African dialect will be a smooth mixture of all our rainbow cultures and the cute accents of the Indians-an-all in Durbs, and those toothless wonders on the Cape Flats, and the serious Dutchies in Oranje, oh and not to mention the twang of the Sandton kugels, would be consigned to the annals of our folklore. Or am I way off here?

— Parent 24.

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