I was one of the happiest people when schools reopened this week, for some grades at least. I was growing tired of being ridiculed and embarrassed by my own kids.
Since the beginning of the nationwide lockdown, I have had nowhere to run and have become the laughing stock of my household. The reason? My Bantu pronunciation of words.
My biggest mistake was buying the 30 Seconds board game for the family to play together. At first it was fun and hilarious, as the kids were still getting used to the rules. Once they got familiar with the game, however, they turned their attention to my pronunciation of certain words, which often left them in stitches.
In my defence, there is no master of pronunciation, but as words such as bird, beat, bid, bad, bet, bat, bate and bait all came out of my mouth sounding the same, my children simply could not understand what I was saying. As a result of my poor pronunciation, my team became the whipping boys and always came off second best. Sadly, my boy no longer wants to be on my side because I have become an embarrassment to him.
It dawned on me that the way I pronounce words is a direct result of the Bantu education that was tailored for black South Africans under apartheid.
I remembered one of my English teachers in Standard 9 (now Grade 11). Mistress Mogorosi (that’s how we addressed our teachers back then) would always preach tense and concord during her English class, but we were never taught how to pronounce the vowels properly.
Mistress Mogorosi liked ending her sentences with “neh?”, and the class would respond with a “yeeesss”.
But, one day, something must have pissed her off during another class because she started the lesson with: “I think some of you take me for granted, neh?”. Tom, one of the naughtiest kids in our class, responded with a resounding “yeeesss”.
I can’t repeat what Mistress Mogorosi said to Tom that day; suffice it to say that it was the last time she ended her sentences with “neh?”.
We always recall that incident whenever we meet as former classmates.
I must confess that my kids taught me few things during this lockdown, even though I was embarrassed most of the time.
It is true that one can never stop learning. And, as they go back to school, I can breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that the days of playing games are over; it’s now time for studies. Besides, I won’t entertain any thoughts of playing again until at least December. By then, I hope to have learnt to pronounce some words better.