Something really interesting happened whilst we were having a family meeting. So I was sharing something in my language and my mum corrected me for pronouncing a word incorrectly. I was born and bred in the Province of Kwa-Zulu Natal in South Africa, which makes me a Zulu and my language is isiZulu. So in my conversation with my family, I was making an example of some Kings. Now, in IsiZulu when you referring to one King you say “Inkosi”. When you referring to more than one King you say “Amakhosi”
I accidently said “Izinkosi” because I assumed that since in IsiZulu we add “izi” when we referring to things in the plural for most things, then that should automatically apply to the word King/s as well. But of course I was wrong and mum corrected me. Now I knew the word “Amakhosi” but I think subconsciously I didn’t pay attention or didn’t care to pay attention because maybe I figured as long as I know English nothing else matters. I think of the many times I made silly mistakes in public whilst speaking in my own language but I didn’t get embarrassed as much as I get when I make a mistake whilst speaking the English language.
One of the missions of the British Empire was to conquer most of the world and create a mighty empire through influencing cultures, languages, nations etc. The days of an active and mighty British Empire are long past but the product of their influence remains through the English language. English no longer belongs to just a small country in Europe; English is a global culture print. Language influences not only the tongue but the customs and behaviours of the conquered begin to reflect those of the conquering nation.
I know a lot of people undermine and don’t even understand why certain institutions or professions that seek to preserve indigenous cultures exist. These institutions and professions ensure that the language and culture is preserved despite the insurmountable influences of globalisation thereby entrenching a sense of identity.
When we lose a sense of our identity we lose ourselves and a sense of our future. I always marvelled when I was younger watching the FIFA soccer world cup or Olympic Games or any other major event. I noticed that when the various leaders of the host countries would address the crowds they spoke in their own languages. This was a contradictory observation to me because, through the shaping of society especially in South Africa, we were made to believe that it was inappropriate to address crowds in your native language. I obviously understand some of the context around that, because if you have a mixture of different languages its best to speak a common language. But if the option of interpreters, sub-titles and other forms are available, then maybe we shouldn’t limit someone to express themselves in a language they most comfortable with and if that happens to be their native language, then so be it!
Now I know I have been told that this over focus on ‘isolated’ cultures, languages and people, causes a rift in society and fuels things such as tribalism and racism. I have heard commentary that says; actually we all just one big human race and that it’s society that created these various classifications of language, race, gender, culture, nation etc. Others say for goodness sake, let’s just get over this thing and just speak one unified language, what do you think?