English, just another language

2017-05-17 06:00

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IT was disappointing to read snide comments from social media trolls mocking the minister of finance’s wife Nomachule Gigaba on her inarticulacy to express­ herself in the Queen’s English.

Gigaba had an exclusive interview with ENCA that aired on Sunday and set tongues wagging on social media with people labelling her “un-smart” because she did not have a twang and her pronunciations and accent were “incorrect”.

We have seen this happen before with soccer players and musicians like Mandoza and recently, Babes Wodumo, who were mocked on social media and inspiring memes because they can’t speak English fluently.

Firstly, South Africa has 11 official languages and scores of unofficial ones. Trolls need to stop perpetuating the stereotype that speaking good English is a measure of intelligence.

To be intelligent refers to a person’s ability to exercise brain power, it means they are able to grasp concepts and build ideas on them. English is simply a language. The most universally useful, commonly spoken, accepted and respected language no doubt – but just a language nonetheless.

A limited vocabulary does not certify anyone’s level of intelligence, in fact intelligence is being able to recognise and respect each other’s differences. This includes differences in language.

Why do we ridicule those who make an effort to speak in English but marvel and clap for other races when they attempt to converse in any of the African languages as if it’s something extraordinary.

I saw disrespectful comments on Twitter with some users even suggesting that Noma should never speak in public again and others wanting to know what school she attended so they do not send their children there.

This obsession with English must stop, I think the important thing when speaking in a second or third language is that you make sense and the person you are conversing with is able to understand you. Flowery expressions are only designed to make the speaker sound more educated than they actually are - they are not a guarantee of their intelligence.

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