‘Don’t let language be a barrier’

2019-02-07 06:01
Nomzamo resident Phumzile September is offering basic isiXhosa classes to Helderberg residents. Photo: Mzwanele Mkalipi

Nomzamo resident Phumzile September is offering basic isiXhosa classes to Helderberg residents. Photo: Mzwanele Mkalipi

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It is deeply ironic that, in a country that boasts 11 official languages, a language barrier is often the reason one is not able to converse with another person.

In the Western Cape, mainly three languages are spoken by its inhabitants – English, Afrikaans and isiXhosa. Most people are fluent in or can understand English and Afrikaans, while isiXhosa is spoken mostly by those who grew up with the language as their mother tongue.

A Nomzamo resident is attempting to break through these language barriers by offering an introductory course in isiXhosa to Helderberg residents.

Phumzile September, born and raised in Lady Grey in the Eastern Cape, and who has lived in Nomzamo since 1994, is offering basic lessons in the language, mainly with locals in mind, in a bid to empower residents and overcome social hurdles arising from the inability to speak to or understand the other person.

“In your everyday life, you often encounter people who speak isiXhosa, whether at a supermarket or at a petrol station, and you may not be able to converse properly with that person,” September explains.

“Learning basic isiXhosa would enable someone to have a general conversation with an isiXhosa speaker. They will get to know the basics, such as greeting, introducing oneself and asking for directions.”

The 49-year-old mother of three, who is a full-time social work student at Stellenbosch University, realised the need for isiXhosa to be introduced to non-speakers while working as an isiXhosa tutor at the institution. “After getting the opportunity to work as a tutor, I saw there was a big gap when my fellow South Africans attempted to learn an African language,” she said.

“We live in a cross-cultural and multilingual country, where people are exposed to different languages all the time. IsiXhosa is one of the three major languages spoken by people in the Western Cape, and it is my vision to give English and Afrikaans speaking people the opportunity to have a conversation with an isiXhosa speaker in the latter’s mother tongue.”

Since the introduction of her classes last month, September has weekly group classes in Somerset West, Strand and Macassar as well as one in Stellenbosch. Although the classes are open to individuals and groups, she prefers interested individuals to register as a group, as it makes group work possible. “I advise people to register as group of four to 10,” she said. “It just makes it easier for the students to practise speaking the language and enables group work exercises.

“The lessons are held for an hour, once a week, the first term of classes having started the first week of February and then again in mid-March; the following round will commence in April.”

For a minimal fee of R1 200 for six lessons, students will learn to speak, read and write basic isiXhosa; the fee must be paid at the start of the cycle. And, September added, she is offering a special for newcomers this month. “I am running an opening special until Friday 15 February; newcomers will pay only R100 per class – or R600 for the six-week course,” she explained, adding that interested people should take advantage of this opportunity.. To register or for more information, contact September by calling or sending a WhatsApp message to on 062 309 2456.

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