Learn Xhosa with Kyle and Xhosa Fundis: Useful phrases for the Soccer World Cup

What do “IWorld Cup ifikile” and “Ndithanda isoka” have in common?

They are both Xhosa phrases, and they are both particularly useful for the Soccer World Cup taking place in South Africa at the moment! (Their meanings are revealed below… so read on…)

A couple of years ago, we attended an introductory Xhosa language course with a good friend of ours. She and a Xhosa mother-tongue speaker had started to run these courses the previous year, and as we’d been curious about learning at least some basics of the language, we signed up.

After all, Xhosa is not only one of the 11 official languages of South Africa, but it is one of the three languages (other than English and Afrikaans) most prevalent in the Western Cape. So we thought it would be important to learn at least a bit of it.

Introductory course

It was an amazing learning experience.

Kyle and her fellow teacher of Xhosa Fundis were wonderful: they patiently repeated words and sentences to us and with us, until they started to stick. They encouraged us to practice phrases in pairs during class, walking around to help us with pronunciation and intonation.

They explained, again and again, how we could twist our tongues, teeth and palates around the various click sounds used with certain letters, such as x, c and q, which I found extremely challenging!

Much to my dismay, the Xhosa phrase for “I don’t understand” was “Andiqondi”. This involved a champagne-cork-popping ‘q’ click (as Kyle described it), that I was (and am still) incapable of pronouncing perfectly.

I really think that such an important phrase for a beginner should be devoid of any clicks! 😉

They came up with creative games and tricks to teach us vocabulary, and they even made the grammar fun (imagine that!).

They handed out little crib-sheets containing a set of phrases relating to a particular topic, and encouraged us to stick these onto fridges, mirrors, cupboards, car dashboards, doors, light switches, etc. The idea behind this was that frequent repetition and visual reminders would help us to remember and reinforce what we were learning in class.

They also encouraged to use these phrases whenever we encountered native Xhosa speakers, whether on the street, in the shops, at the petrol station, or on the train. I remember how daunting that was, and yet how rewarding, when someone responded positively and with delight, acknowledging that a phrase I had stumblingly offered in greeting did in fact contain recognisable words.

I also remember how fearful I was that they would launch into an entire story filled with complicated sentences, assuming that I would understand, when all I basically knew how to say was:

“Molo mama” (respectful greeting to an adult woman likely to have children)
“Kunjani?” (How are you?)
“Ndiphilile, enkosi.” (I am well, thank you) and
“Ube nemini emnandi!” (Have a nice day!), as I made a polite escape!

Kyle and her fellow teacher also put a huge amount of effort into teaching us about the cultures and traditions of our Xhosa-speaking brothers and sisters. We learned so much, and even though we have forgotten much of the detail, what did ‘stick’ was the feeling of respect for a beautiful and very rich culture, and for a way of life that was far more family and community oriented than our individualistic Western-style lives.

Article in ITWeb

At the start of June, an article about Kyle and her fellow teachers of Xhosa Fundis appeared on ITWeb, see here: Xhosa clicks with Twitter. The article spoke about their use of social networking sites, specifically Twitter and Facebook, to teach Xhosa. Naturally, I popped on over for a closer look, and found myself on the Posterous website.

They send out a Xhosa phrase every day, linking to a Posterous site, where you can hear a native Xhosa speaker say the phrase, usually twice. There is also a breakdown of the parts that make up the phrase, clarifying the meaning and the context, if relevant.

As Kyle explains in the article:

“Research into teaching languages has shown that small steps – by learning one phrase at a time every day – can help a person develop a strong affinity for a language. Even if they do not become completely fluent in it, they do develop a rapport and this helps them develop a sense of connection with the fluent speakers,” she says.

Twitter: http://twitter.com/xhosafundis
Posterous: http://xhosafundis.posterous.com/
Website: http://www.xhosafundis.co.za/

Recent Phrases on Posterous

The lessons of the last week or so have taught us phrases that are particularly useful for the Soccer World Cup, which is fantastic! For instance, you can learn how to say the following phrases and impress your fellow soccer fans!

Go on, expand your horizons!

2 thoughts on “Learn Xhosa with Kyle and Xhosa Fundis: Useful phrases for the Soccer World Cup

  1. Well, I applaud you but will not be following suit! I did my little bit for international relations by guiding three bewildered Norwegians in the centre of Cape Town, and by beaming at a party of French supporters who I encountered at Bayside Shops – one of them rushed over and vigorously shook my hand! Mass goodwill all round – can’t be bad, hey?
    Ndithanda IWorldCup !

  2. Hello Alison

    LOL! It’s great to have so many foreign visitors here, isn’t it? I really love it. I also love helping them out and directing them to wherever they want to go, when they’re standing there with that bewildered, lost look.

    There was a remarkable festival atmosphere in CT on Friday, wasn’t there? It was very uplifting! And how thrilling to have the eyes of the world on us at this time.

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