The war on English

2013-04-29 10:00

I’ve been at war with my daughter since she started speaking, inexplicably uttering her first words with a twang.

When she enrolled in an English-speaking school three years ago, she was already speaking the language like a native, thanks to the CBeebies channel, books and pop music.

The fact that she thinks isiXhosa is “boring and hard” used to infuriate and embarrass me.

I never wanted to be one of those parents whose children had “no African culture” and only spoke English.

Those parents were bad blacks, ashamed of their roots and forgetting their culture.

Every time she attempted a conversation with me, I’d shut her down and insist she speak only isiXhosa.

But I’ve recently come to realise that I’m a hypocrite and my being so uncompromising is hurting our relationship.

I’m the one who chose to send her to an English-language school.

I’m the one who buys her books in English. I’m the one who finds myself speaking more English than isiXhosa, even when conversing with family.

So why can’t she?

I’ve stopped cringing when my daughter bullies the neighbourhood kids into playing “school”, where she’s the teacher.

I’ve stopped because when I hear them playing outside, singing made-up tunes in English, telling each other stories in that language and fixing one another’s grammar, it makes me proud to know my eight-year-old is sharing her education.

I’m proud of my English-speaking, twanging, sweet bully. She’s a hero to those kids.

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