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Why did we combine a Yoga retreat with a Xhosa language immersion?

by Craig Makhosi Charnock, UBuntu Bridge and YhoXhosa founder

Please note that this retreat is about learning Xhosa, and experiencing community in a different way. Any yoga, movement, or meditation classes are completely just an added option for participants, entirely optional and accessible for all levels! This is not a fancy yoga retreat! ???? Right, so ……

Yoga simply means union (or connection) through practice.

Any practice performed with a conscious intent to connect with our inner selves – whether through postures, breathing, acts of charity, studying of wise texts, surfing, singing or dancing – forges reunion with what was perceived to be separate and reminds us that we are actually One (Sibanye).

Separation is an experience of one layer of reality but the deeper truth is that we are more connected than we are separate. You can ask Einstein anyway. 😉

So what about the yoga of learning a language?

Bridges of Unity:
We were separated systematically by Apartheid (which literally means separation-ness) not just by skin-level visual symbols, but by language, allowing groups of people to become separated and divided by sight and sound.

Despite changes to legislation pertaining to race, language dynamics in South Africa are still a barrier between groups; a chasm and a separator. Status, education, privilege, success, superiority and dignity are bound up in language.

Inequality and disharmony are felt more strongly by those who do not speak the dominant languages and are more easily forgotten by others accustomed to their comforts and privileges.

If we do not build bridges and cross this language divide, the gaps in our society will continue to grow, and is that something we can really allow for our children?

Towards UBuntu:
UBuntu is an Nguni word that speaks to what it means to be human, and to the role and value of our relationships to a creator, to our ancestors, to nature, to family, friends, community, and ultimately to all the aspects of our Self.

As a language forms new synaptic and neural pathways in the brain, allowing a new way of being and of identifying, one can see more clearly through the veil of separation and difference that our society has imposed on us. Yoga practice has a similar effect.

Transformation & Belonging:
I have taught Xhosa in many contexts since 2006, following a personal calling and an intensive period spent in the rural villages learning Xhosa and connecting with the culture and ways of being of AmaXhosa.

I am deeply grateful to the people who welcomed and supported me there, across many different villages and hills, townships and cities, and UBuntu Bridge is entirely built upon the requests of others for me to continue this work.  

I attribute many positive transformations in myself, and my sense of belonging in and to South Africa, largely due to this process of learning indigenous languages and connecting as Mandela said, “to people’s hearts”. 

Community Invitation and Support:
Our presence in these villages brings income and joy to many of the local families, and in my personal capacity and as a collective, we have been invited on countless occasions to return.  By bringing culturally sensitive and respectful business to the doors of people, on their request, we are reversing the dynamics of old, and allowing people to create livelihood and prosperity without leaving their homes for the cities, or changing their culture, language, or way of life.

Improved Learning:`
Learning and health go hand in hand. Health allows learning and as we learn we make more healthy choices, opening our bodies, minds and hearts. By healing ourselves we heal our ancestors and the planet. It can be difficult work, but it is perhaps the most important and rewarding work we can do. Every ancient wisdom tradition offers glimmers of this truth and of the path to freedom, and so many of the answers we seek as a society have already been in existence for thousands of years. 

Together we Grow:
“To go quick, go alone. To go far, go together”,

as the oft quoted proverb goes.  Without doubt, it helps and is more fun to learn with others.  My journey of learning Xhosa has often been isolated, and at times lonely, often far from my home and the cultural comforts I grew up with.  

So it is with great excitement and gratitude that we look forward to welcoming you and sharing this journey, which gets easier, more fun and more influential, as more of us walk it.

Yho!! Xhosa!

Do let us know if you have any questions via comments below or email :)c

Craig Makhosi Charnock


Click here for the signup information page!

PLEASE NOTE: Bookings and early bird discounts are still available for group of 4 bookings until 19 May 2023, or by special request. 

P.S.  Need online course or coaching to improve your Xhosa?
Click here

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Council of Wisdom – Process

A process for:

  • getting and giving support and advise as a community,
  • respecting and re-awakening the archetypal energies of the community elder and the counsellor
  • and rediscovering our inner sovereign

I write this in my personal capacity as a contribution and response to the Muizenberg Can Emotional Support aspect during the COVID lockdown March – June 2020. It is part two in a series, the first of which can be read here: My Story is Our Story


Also known as KING’S COURT, in the men’s work circles where I first encountered this process (2007-present), I re-write this as a gender-neutral process, having scoured the internet for any sign of an open source guide. Much respect to the Mankind Project (MKP), and although I believe MKP manuals are copyrighted, I believe this archetypal structure of wisdom, advice, counsel and feedback to be ancient and of universal heritage. I thus take liberty to re-write a version of this process for these difficult times. Inverted commas come from an uncredited document I received and saved somewhere over the years.


Any good leader has always been as strong and as wise as their counsellors and advisors. Each of us holds king or queen (regent) energy in our individual lives, perhaps not overtly in our family or community setting, but each of us ultimately has the power to make decisions for the good of our own internal realm, our inner kingdom, and outwardly our life. It is our right and our responsibility to discover and activate this personal power, if we feel we don’t have it at present. But even when we do, we still need support from others.


Our modern world has stripped us of a culture that effortlessly allows for wise counsel to be given to us by our elders, or even peers. We have no old men and women sitting under trees telling stories to the youth and giving counsel to the temporarily lost or confused. Perhaps it is just that they now sit under bridges and few are willing to listen to them, for often I do wonder if the wisest amongst us are the homeless, and the law keeps them away from the trees, parks, forests. No doubt that is a long and philosophical and complex discussion.


Because of this loss, it is imperative that we set about re-creating pockets of culture that are flexible and adaptable. Despite the connectivity, over-population and high density cityscapes of our modern world, so many of us feel alone, lonely or devoid of good mentorship, or even just good advice when we need it. Personally I have found wisdom and advice in the most unlikely and abundant of places, but one needs to have finely tuned senses and gift of balanced interpretation. Perhaps my thwasa training or meditation retreats have gifted me, but despite that, I regularly benefit and am deeply grateful for receiving guidance, or even just caring ears, from my peers, and elders.


You need to have a small group or community of people who are united in their desire to receive and give support to each other. Any good container (a space that holds and supports what happens inside it) generally needs a few universal principles to keep it safe and nurturing. Qualities that build trust and a sense of safety for the participants like:

  • honesty and transparency
  • confidentiality
  • non-judgment (compassion)
  • listening and patience
  • respect for each other and the process guidelines
  • accountability and taking responsibility

It’s hard to always be perfect, and mistakes are part of the process, but at least those form part of a conscious intention. There are process to support each of those, but this is not re-creating the wheel (The Mankind Project for men and Women for Afrika for women are two organisations I can recommend for anyone wanting to explore this work further)


Once you have your group and created your container of time, place, setting, intentions, values and guidelines, a brief introduction by the facilitator can be followed by this process:

Each person present checks in with feelings/emotions to ground themselves in the space. Depending on the time and number of people, either the time is divided equally between everyone, or people also state in their check-in if they are here to support/advise, or receive support/guidance/advise, or both. I have always found that I gain much from supporting others, their problems often resonate or echo with an issue in my life, as does the wisdom and advice that is given to them, sometimes my own advice to them, is just what I need to follow in my life, and just what I needed to hear.


Usually we would “re-form the circle into the shape of a horseshoe. Place an empty chair at the open end of the horseshoe”. That is the Regent’s Throne, or the Soveriegn’s Seat, whatever you want to call it, even just the Hotseat! The person requesting the Counsel takes the empty seat with their Court (everyone else) sitting in the horseshoe. Now in a Zoom session, this would just need to be held according to those parameters, such as listeners keeping their mics muted at first, and using speaker view.


The person spends approximately 5-7 minutes talking about a particular issue in their life that is challenging them at the moment and where they appears to be struggling, or have few options that they can see. This person needs to” be clear, direct, concise and rigorously truthful”.


The Court practices “Warrior Communication and Listening to Understand, with the understanding that they have permission to point out options, alternatives, and other considerations without having to fix the problem” for the person.

REPEAT: This is not to pass judgment, or solve the problem, it’s to give feedback and reflections, potential other angles or suggestions to consider!


The King/Queen will then ask each person in the Court, one at a time “What do you think?” or the facilitator, just delegates each person a chance to respond, and they may decline if nothing to say. Bear in mind that time is limited according to the group agreement and the number of people, so there may be just one minute per person giving feedback.


The facilitator can re-iterate this for people/counsellors, while people are still new to the process: “Each person will answer again clearly, concisely with his feedback for the Queen/King. Be honest, but with compassion, and without judgement. No fixing, or rescuing, just advise that feels true from your heart in that moment.

The person may have follow up questions for their advisor to seek more clarity, though remembering that this is not a discussion (unless time allows – the facilitator needs to be strict with this).

After each and every advisor has spoken, the Queen/King can give thanks, and absorb the feedback they have received.


  • Reminding everyone of the group agreements and guidelines for the container at the beginning and whenever needed.
  • Ensure that there is enough time for everyone who needed counsel, to receive it, and that everyone gets a chance to give feedback. So be strict with time, and stop people if they are explaining anything other than their exact issue, or their exact advise.
  • Nothing needs to be perfect, especially in the beginning. The process can be repeated many times and people will get the hang for it over time. But time and guideline boundaries must be respected by everyone, or the safety and sustainability of the container becomes threatened.


When everyone has had their turn or the agreed time has been reached, their should be time left for a check-out, where each person again shares their name, their feelings at that moment, and perhaps a short reflection of their experience, in a word or a short sentence or longer (time depending).

If no final points of admin, or urgent needs, the facilitator can thank everyone and end the gathering.

I very much hope this brings great support, comfort and advise to you and your group, family, community!

Craig Makhosi


For PDF version of this post, audio/podcasts that explores deeper, new writings and posts of this nature: SUBSCRIBE to “Recovering Culture”

Craig grew up in Cape Town and after training temporarily as a Sangoma in the early 2000’s, went on to found UBuntu Bridge, a social entrepreneurship building culutral, linguistic and spiritual bridges, primarily through teaching Xhosa. Besides running the organisation, and volunteering in men’s work circles, he produces edutaining content to inspire and empower people relating to living as more conscious, harmonious, healthy and happy beings.

Follow Makhosi:

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My Story is Our Story – Process

How to facilitate the “My Story” Process

A process for:

  • nurturing community through auto-biographical story-telling
  • developing listening skills, compassion, empathy
  • strengthening relationships
  • seeing ourselves in each other (a gateway to ubuntu)

I write this in my personal capacity as a contribution and response to the Muizenberg Can Emotional Support aspect during the COVID lockdown March – June 2020. It is part two in a series, the second of which can be read here: Council of Wisdom


Also known as the My Story Process, I first encountered this process as part of the Art of Living Organisation’s part 1 course in 2003, (now called the Happiness Programme) – which I highly recommend for anyone seeking greater peace, strength, wisdom, community and love in their life. I have found this process to be extremely simple yet powerful in the other context in which I have found it, or in which I have used it.

I having scoured the internet for any sign of an open source guide, and finding none, I decided to share the process from my perspective. I believe this archetypal structure of wisdom, advice, counsel and feedback to be ancient and of universal heritage.


  • Quite simply it involves someone telling their story of their life, just the facts, the bare bones! This may include emotions, or feelings that accompanied parts of the journey, but it is not a counselling session or a detailed description of a short period.
  • for about 5-10 mins, or based on time allowing and group size
  • The others in the group listen, without any interruption.
  • No questions are asked, no feedback or commentary is given afterwards, just a simple thank you for listening and a thank you for telling.
  • The next person shares their story. Ideally, EVERYONE shares their story, and everyone listens.
  • Many people have stories to tell and time is limited in this busy world.
  • People can always go and ask each other questions and continue conversations when the process is over for everyone.
  • If time is short and the group is large, break people into groups of minimum three (or four or any number time allowing), and each has a turn while the other two listen.
  • All of the GOLD in this process is in two simple dynamics: being able to share your essential life journey AND perhaps more importantly, listening without interrupting to someone else sharing what is unique to them and their experience of breathing air on this planet.
  • I have been surprised every single time I have been part of this process, whether I knew the person or not. There is always something more I did not expect about their lives, always something I have in common. It shatters my expectations and preconceptions, and even judgements of a person.
  • It is a great process for developing empathy and relationships.
  • The experience is tremendously enhanced by following this process with eye-gazing. Read more and instructions here, but perhaps even better experienced if part of an Art of Living Course, or elsewhere with loving and experienced guides.

I very much hope this brings great support, comfort and advise to you and your group, family, community!

Craig Makhosi


For PDF version of this post, audio/podcasts that explores deeper, new writings and posts of this nature: SUBSCRIBE to “Recovering Culture”

Craig grew up in Cape Town and after training temporarily as a Sangoma in the early 2000’s, went on to found UBuntu Bridge, a social entrepreneurship building culutral, linguistic and spiritual bridges, primarily through teaching Xhosa. Besides running the organisation, and volunteering in men’s work circles, he produces edutaining content to inspire and empower people relating to living as more conscious, harmonious, healthy and happy beings.

Follow Makhosi:

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Ten isiXhosa Learning Tips


There are many reasons why many people struggle to learn and maintain Vernac language learning, but often it comes down to unrealistic expectations, no practical strategy, and lack of psychological preparation.

This article on how to speak Xhosa is written to inspire people to have an efficient strategy and good attitude when it comes to learning Vernac languages, specifically isiXhosa (very similar is isiZulu, SiSwati and isiNdebele).

1.  Assume it is an EASY language to learn:

Because it really is!  Here’s a couple of great reasons why:  Some languages, such as Japanese, have at least three alphabets and writing each character requires accuracy and attention.  English, a language you can speak (if you are reading this) and one which many people from all different backgrounds and levels of education are learning all the time around the world, is NOT phonetic, which makes it difficult to learn to read and pronounce, in fact it can take years.  In contrast, isiXhosa not only uses the Roman alphabet, but it IS phonetic and is thus quick and easy to learn to read and pronounce.  Even the clicks, which make many people think that isiXhosa is impossible and they just CAN’T do, are really easy and quick to learn if someone knows how to teach them.  There are only three clicks and we have taught over hundreds of people Xhosa over 6 years and everyone gets all three clicks in a minute.  It then just takes a bit of practice and repetition to get them strong and effortless, much as we can all do a bench press of a moderate weight at least once, but it takes effort and practice to increase your reps.  With a few minutes of practice each day, rapid progress is possible!  And the clicks are a fantastic way of connecting to the vibrations of our old Bushmen ancestors.  Travel back in time, reconnect to ancient human heritage.  Learn the Clicks!  See a great video here:  And besides, attitude is everything when trying to learn anything!

2.  Don’t START with the noun groups.

Many text books and Xhosa courses start with teaching the noun groups.  This made some sense if the designer of the course was seeking to teach the entire structure of the language to a student and new that they had a long time to do so, for instance a couple of years at high school, or a year curriculum at university level.  Even with those structures, many students seem to go through years of high school Xhosa tuition and come out not speaking Xhosa!  I believe you have to start with a verb-based grammatical understanding, then combining with prefixes and using nouns only ad hoc, whilst the learner builds confidence and love for the spoken language of Xhosa.  As you gain confidence and enjoyment, and sense the tangible rewards for your effort, you will be motivated to start tackling the more study intensive noun groups and all conjugations that follow from there.  This worked for me!

3.  Don’t rush in till you know how to escape!

We ask students to not engage with Xhosa speakers until they have learnt how to enter the conversation, introduce themselves, but then also how to respectfully exit the conversation.  This entails knowing the good-byes, but more importantly, it is about knowing how to explain in the Xhosa that one is still learning to speak Xhosa, that one only speaks a little and one can’t say anymore.   Xhosa people love it when you can say these things properly but they also get that your Xhosa is limited, which helps avoid difficult situations.  And its disrespectful to just charge in with “Molo, sisi” and then not have anything else to say.

4.  Then rush in whenever you can!

This knowledge in turn gives you as a learner increased confidence to enter into conversations in the first place, something you need to do a lot of to improve in any language.  So once you know the basics, and can ‘escape’ respectfully, you need to go for it.  One of the great things about learning Xhosa is that it is appreciated by so many Xhosa speakers.  One of my ‘mamas’ says that when someone tries to speak Xhosa to her, she wants to hug them cos it makes her feel like all is right in the world.  This is an attitude shared by many Xhosa people, as told by her, as experienced by myself personally, shared by many students, and confessed to by Xhosa people I have asked.  However, not everyone is like this and if Xhosa people feel or suspect, and have been subjected to people speaking their language in a way that is obviously just to manipulate or exploit, they do not react warmly at all.  What people respond to is respect, effort, authenticity, humility!

5.  Initially, focus on quality, not quantity.  Then quantity!

Many students want to learn lots of grammar and vocab before they start speaking with people, and although I can’t stress the importance of learning, it is important that learners do not try learn more at the cost of really knowing the basics well and then using those basics, developing confidence and love for the spoken language.  Its like trying to learn about driving a car by reading more and more manuals, so that you will know how to drive when you first get into a car.  Ja right!  You need to get behind the wheel to learn how to drive.  Same with a language.  One must also make sure that one is not avoiding one’s fear of speaking with people and the inevitable sense of being out of one’s depth by trying to outlearn one’s own fears.   The key is to balance mastering the levels you are at, whilst pushing into new areas.   Once you are comfortable with entering and knowing how to politely exit conversations, then learn vocab vocab vocab!

6.  Learn the basics of culture and show respect

Knowing the basics of culture indicates an extra layer of depth to your language efforts for indeed culture and language go hand in hand, such as the African handshake, giving and receiving with two hands, indirect eye contact being a sign of respect to an elder, greeting an elder first, seating oneself on arrival at someone’s home.  UBuntu Bridge have some cool videos and basic culture tips built into our courses, some of which can be seen here:

Quite a White Ou’s Kwaito Song “Ndingumlungu”:
How to do an African Handshake:
A Basic Xhosa Greeting:

How to Toyi-toyi:
How to X Click:
How to Sing the National Anthem:

A lot of our culture tips are included in the FREE online isiXhosa Video course that will walk you through our entire beginners course in a nutshell:

Ultimately learning about a person’s culture is about showing respect.  Xhosa people are not into the formalities of respect if meeting people from another culture, but more about authentic expressions of courtesy and respect.

7.  Choose a conversation partner wisely, if at all, and know your CLARIFICATION PHRASES

Some Xhosa people just don’t seem to get how to speak to a beginner learner.  They either speak to quickly, misinterpret your questions or they try teach you ludicrously big and uncommon words and no amount of ‘coaching’ seems to help.  Some folks, however, are naturals and slow right down and explain in a simple fashion, and just seem to ‘get’ what it is that you need.  They are also ‘coachable’ in the sense that if you ask them to explain again, or repeat in Xhosa, but slowly, they do!  Someone with patience and who gets joy from helping you is what you need.  Most importantly, don’t be discouraged if someone you regularly try to practice with just seems to confuse you more.  Find another practice partner.  Again, I believe with good materials you can practice by yourself or with another learner and then go straight into ‘live’ conversations.  UBuntu Bridge’s materials are designed to let you interact with the Cd, learning all appropriate vocab and even giving you sample conversations relating to grammar learned in each lesson, with a breakdown of each phrase in the conversation, allowing you to learn and hear and repeat both person’s parts.  No matter whether you practice with someone, or go straight for live conversations, make sure you know the CLARIFICATION phrases, as taught in Lesson 7 of our beginners course.  “Slow down”, “please repeat”, “How do you say … in xhosa?”, “What is ….. in English?” amongst many others prove to be of great value, but help you to use Xhosa to improve your Xhosa!

8.  Keep motivated – Understand the Value of Learning Xhosa: 

Learning Xhosa in the New SA is not just, at least I hope, an exercise in getting govt tenders or improving sales.  It is also a form of social reconciliation, of promoting intercultural harmony and respect, of acknowledging past injustices, some of which involved a deliberate non-mother tongue education (think Soweto uprising, 1976) with devastating short and long term consequences and a general disregarding, disrespecting and de-valuing of African culture and languages, both by the European cultures and then the African cultures themselves.  By learning about an African culture and speaking in an African language, you are re-valuing it, you are giving an entire culture and its people respect and acknowledgement.  Mandela himself, in his first speech as president of SA, urged the people of South Africa to learn each other’s languages after learning Afrikaans and so much of Afrikaner history went so far to winning the respect, trust and admiration of the Afrikaner leaders of the Apartheid regime.  This basic effort would contribute to the vision of South Africa he had laid foundations for.

9.  Volunteer in the townships and go visit the rural villages

Xhosa people predominantly are still living in conditions of poverty whether in rural homelands or in informal urban settlements (townships).  It is largely a consequence of Colonialism (land invasion and acquisition and migrant labour) and Apartheid that they live in the conditions they do and so those of us who have benefitted from these same systems have some social duty at least to find ways to contribute and give back from a place of privilege and wealth.  One way of giving is volunteering in the townships.  Human resources are of much value, whether you can bring a skill, or mentoring, or coaching, all contribute greatly to the education and experience of the people.  Meanwhile the immersion and interaction in Xhosa will do wonders for your Xhosa skills.  Even two hours a week could bring much value to a Xhosa child/adult and yourself.  Another place to immerse oneself is the rural villages, where you can not only experience the breathtaking scenery and charm of rural Xhosa life, but also contribute to a form of sustainable income for local villagers who can make valuable income from hosting guests, at minimal expense and great value to the guests.  Seek established, but not commercialised channels of connecting with locals to ensure authentic experiences.

For an authentic village experiences, see Village Xhosa Promo video: or
Township Experiences:

Our collaboration with dine with Khayelitsha:

Also follow facebook groups such as UBuntu Bridge, Dine with Khayelitsha, Greenpop, etc.

10.  Know your goal and keep perspective:

Enjoy it and keep realistic about your goals.  Sometimes even the basics will improve and deepen relationships and respect with yourself and Xhosa people.   Most Xhosa people can speak English and important business will either be done in English or a translator will be needed as learning Xhosa to a point of professional fluency will take a long time if learning as a busy working adult.   Remember that some days you will have flowing conversations, where your brain just tunes in, and some days it will seem as though you are making no progress.  Don’t give up, remember that the effort to learn is greatly appreciated, and at the end of the day, you don’t need language to show gratitude and respect to all peoples and creatures.  A final quote from Madiba:  “Speak to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head.  Speak to a man in his own language, that goes to his heart.”

Learning languages can open our hearts, and that is something we need more of on the planet.

Want to start learning isiXhosa for free online with fun videos?
Click here:

uKlegi a.k.a Makhosi learnt a dialect of isiXhosa in the rural villages of the Mpondo and Xhosa people as an adult from 2003 (after graduating at UCT), before learning the more urban dialects as a volunteer in a Cape Town township.  He designs isiXhosa learning materials, teaches Xhosa courses and trains teachers through the non-profit organisation UBuntu Bridge.


And our recent School Vernac Language Vision Proposal:


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African Language Learning in Schools Solution – School Xhosa

A PDF proposal was created in 2016 to provide a more visual vision. We remain unattached to whether we are involved as an organisation or not, but wish dearly for some sort of similar project to be implemented on a national level, for the good of our nation, and the youth of our country.


Download the PDF here:

African Language Learning in Schools – School Xhosa

Molweni, Sanibonani, Dumelang, Goeie Dag, Hello

If you are here, reading this, you probably:

a)   recognize the vital and urgent power of even basic African language learning, coupled with African cultural awareness, as a way to help forge a united nation and heal wounds from our past, relating to intercultural dynamic

b)   are concerned with how we can find a way to make it relevant, convenient and effective for young scholars (the future of this country) and adult learners.

For years the debate has raged, and as recently as this morning, we have seen the headline of the Cape Times proclaim that the new policy will require an extra hour to the school day, much to many teacher’s and learner’s dismay.  The issues have been unfolding, often with controversy, for some time!

Difficulty of African language teaching at schools

African languages have been taught at many ‘privileged’ schools (arguably where they are needed most) over the years and are beset by the following problems with profound consistency:

1)   lack of interest from learners (usually one or two white learners finish it for matric)

2)   although some of the best teachers can be found at some schools, many receive teaching from teachers who have not received training on how to teach their own language as a third language (an equivalent to TEFL – we refer to our methodology and teaching style as TXCL – teaching Xhosa as a Conversational language)

3)   old-fashioned course content, which focusses on deep, non-contemporary Xhosa, thus providing learners with very little practical reward (and thus erodes motivation and interest).

4)   grammar heavy learning, which results in scholars knowing the noun groups, but not how to greet and introduce in a way that facilitates relationship-building and enjoyment of the language.

5)   lack of cultural empathy and connection, thus reduced enthusiasm, respect and little authenticity to the learning process, something ‘white’ learners need, as language and ‘race’ issues in modern SA for whities is particularly about identity, shame/guilt, fear, arrogance, ignorance.

Vision in a Nutshell:Language Learning in SA is really about two things:

1.        PAST:  Respecting our local cultures, people and history, for proper reconciliation and healing of all our peoples!
2.         FUTURE:  Connecting our peoples across socio-economic divides, to build a nation to inspire the world, again!

Marketing and Motivation:  

Language learning needs to be popularised. 

  • It needs to compete with all the other interests and distractions out there!!  But it needs to be marketed via demonstration
  • videos, music, popular culture.
  • Once you have interest from learners, there are Three C’s you need to give learners:  
  • Confidence – materials and teaching methods that focus on practical essentials! ·    
  • Convenience – multi-platform and mobile learning tools, for adults with busy jobs and scholars with full curriculums!!
  • Cultural Context – immersion opportunities to authenticate the connection and learning process!

UBuntu Bridge has a 5-pointed plan

for the situation, which we have been building and testing for 7 years of teaching on corporate, govt, school, NGO, online and public learning platforms (since 2005):  

  1. Excellent and engaging materials and teaching methodology
  2. Fun and enrolling live teaching and tutoring
  3. Online, multimedia and mobile learning tools e.g. videos
  4. Online tutoring support
  5. Language and culture immersions in townships and rural villages (which stimulate local micro-enterprises)  

Please email for more information!

Demos of our Xhosa language and Culture learning Videos (demos below):

[easy-media med=”567,570,582,577,773,587,1188″ col=”2″ align=”none”]


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Talking Heads

Talking heads talk (full version) – 20 April 2013
I was recently invited to speak at the Africa Centre’s Talking Heads evening, during which I got to share my thoughts for 20 minutes with three groups of 3 people, and invite discussion around the topic.  The opportunity allowed me to hone some of the thoughts I have harboured and not shared openly for many years.   After the evening, I found myself writing more on the topic.  It may be slightly long-winded, but here it is!
I came to my work of teaching Xhosa and promoting African cultural awareness through my passion and my calling to be of service to my community (nowadays, that means global society).  As a result, whilst I have accepted a business model as a way of reflecting an exchange of value and of sustaining the enterprise, I have struggled with any notion of selling or marketing my products and services, unless it is part of an authentic creative or emotive expression.  As a result, I am extremely critical of my arguments, which lean towards promoting what I sell, and yet I am torn as I genuinely have pursued this path as I believe in its power to influence our world for good, to bring the transformation of our society that so many of us crave to see, and too many of us fail to believe in.  Because it unfortunately takes effort, discomfort, humility, sacrifice!
Here follows the essence of my philosophy:
We are going through a transformation of humanity.   Compared to millions of years of life on earth of our recent and even previous species of ancestors, but even to the last 10000 years, the last 400 must surely be the most spectacular, and of those, the last 50 particularly, and the last 20 to the extent that the growth and rate of change seems to be exponential.  We have been through an industrial and technological revolution, we have seen slavery and colonialisation throw different cultures, languages and religions across the globe, mixing all manner of diversity all over the show.  We have seen humans master flight, and ultimately space travel and moon landings.  We have for the first time seen our planet from space, and realized its fragility.  We have seen the birth of the internet and cellular communication, both of which allow us to access vast stores of knowledge and communicate across the globe instantaneously (the kind of telepathy the aboriginal peoples could only have dreamt of, probably did, and have finally manifested).  We have seen our own consumption patterns affecting the climate, which in turn affects weather systems across the globe.  A bomb in one country effects foreign policy in another affects the price of petrol in a small town in an entirely different part of the planet.
We are truly living in an age of ubuntu or intense inter-connectedness and inter-dependence, its just that we are experiencing it more in an external sense, than in the romantic, internalized sense that we commonly associate with the term, that notion of humanity and goodwill towards others.  Quite where this global transformation is taking us no one really knows.  It’s all very impressive, and surely therefore amazing and an improvement, but we cannot refute or deny the tremendous amount of negativity and suffering that modern civilisation has inflicted upon people, cultures and the planet. 
We seem too to have lost many of the jewels our ancestors developed and nurtured, at least as a natural part of our society and culture.  They are still there but they have to be manufactured and not everyone is privileged to experience them.  They are things like rites of passage, and initiation, most importantly within the framework of a community.  
What has this loss in culture cost us?
Whilst some will claim these symptoms have always existed, we know that socio-economic, historic and political circumstances in recent times have led directly to many of today’s most horrific stats.  For instance, there is ubiquitous violence against women and children, sex abuse scandals becoming the norm, grotesque acts of terrorism on all sides, oppression, widespread poverty and inequality, rampant drug abuse amongst the wealthy and poor alike, clogged prison systems, failing old world economies now that their exploitation is tempered, political corruption as a status quo, manipulative media and sociopathic corporations, fear, insecurity, climate disruptions and the resulting dog-eat-dog competitiveness, it doesn’t exactly look pretty. 
Cultures previously renowned for their hospitality, respect and spiritual consciousness are now in the news continuously for grotesque atrocities.  For these elements of modern society, we cannot blame anyone else except aspects of the human spirit, manifested through the western, colonizing powers and their systematic destruction of other cultures!
Meanwhile, we have South Africa going through its own transformation.  The country the whole world has looked to in these last 20 years, as the place where the impossible happened, where miracles manifested, where people managed to forgive and accept, to tolerate and collaborate, where Mandela was freed, apartheid was ended and we had free and fair elections.  There are not many countries that can claim such magnanimity of the masses, such generosity of spirit, not from the previous oppressors so much, who merely saw their time had come, but of the previously oppressed, the people who had suffered land disenfranchisement, slavery, colonialism, apartheid.  These people allowed Nelson Mandela to be their voice piece, to lead us into an age where all could prosper and live in freedom and opportunity.  But something has not quite worked.  Why?
There are many surface level reasons, symptoms, explanations, etc, where we can blame government, and indeed our current leaders defy belief with their shameless disregard for the principles they supposedly fought so hard for, but that is not my concern in this article.  I am seeking to highlight dynamics and social beliefs which existed before, and persist today which contribute to the environment which allows a corrupt government to continue to receive support from those they exploit and let down!
I wish to address the heart of the issue:  our very notion of transformation.
When we speak of transformation in South Africa, it is always a movement from afrocentric, traditional, ‘primitive’ towards eurocentric, modern, ‘civilisation’.  The default setting is to assume our western and modern ways are naturally better than any alternative.  If we imagined successful ‘transformation’ we imagine black people getting white jobs, adopting white culture, speaking better English, working in better jobs, becoming middle class, becoming ‘land owners’.
Even the notion of transforming people from poverty to something better, the automatic assumption is that leaving poverty means leaving townships, which are social constructs and legacies of apartheid (and a symptom of our system worldwide), colonial exploitation, etc, but not back towards a traditional or rural cultural stability and prosperity as existed before!   No, forwards towards the middle class culture so loudly trumpeted and accepted as the obvious answer to humanity’s lifestyle desires, regardless of its obvious unsustainability.  Traditional, rural lifestyle is without much thought considered to be backward, unappealing, poverty!
I am not for a minute implying people should be expected to return to rural villages where erosion, droughts, poor infrastructure and shortage of resources are prevalent.  However, I am drawing attention to the line and direction of our commonly held assumptions and beliefs, and to the options we therefore tend to ignore by default! 
The underlying assumption we all make is:
“West is best, white is right!”    
AND yet, the world looks to “black” South Africa as the people and the place that forgave its previous oppressors, who chose to forgive and live together to build a new country, a new nation.  It’s the Mandela’s, Tutu’s etc who are admired, idolized and the source of inspiration globally.  And yet no one looks to the culture and the people, who lie behind the humility of these men. 
As a white male South Africa, of wealthy and privileged birth and upbringing, I should surely be the scorn of all non-white South Africans.  But no, we have a country of people, who seem to be blessed with a tendency to judge people for how they treat others, the respect they show, but especially an effort to acknowledge people!  I have found that my efforts to speak the language of Xhosa specifically, but other languages too, my willingness to hear and research history from a non-colonial perspective, to seek and acknowledge the wealth and value of indigenous cultures, but most of all my willingness to put aside my cultural arrogance and default superiority setting, has been hugely appreciated by people. 
This process of acknowledging and appreciating re-humanises people, and Im conscious not to sound like it is white people who have the power to de-humanize or re-humanise people.  Far from it, we white people have paid our own large cost for the benefits of unjust and inhumane systems and it depends on your values and priorities that may deem you to judge it a larger or lesser cost.  Our very souls have been put in jeopardy by our collective greed, willful ignorance and continued denial.  If you do not believe in souls, then let me say that if one is not burdened with a sense of guilt and shame at how one’s ancestors treated the ancestors of others enough to struggle to fully appreciate the blessings of one’s privilege, then you may be of the other ilk, those who have turned fully towards the void, and chase drugs, sex, material wealth, anything to give them a sense of escape or worth in the eyes of others, let alone of themselves, and yet still they dig themselves deeper into an ultimate despair!
So what we need is balanced transformation.  The old notions of black or indigenous people being given access to resources, education and the resulting choice of lifestyle and career to pursue is a no brainer and this would mean a natural tendency for black folks to become more Eurocentric.  And yes, people need to understand that this system is built and sustained by people working for what they get and contributing towards its growth!  
Handouts do not work, nor do they empower, nor are they sustainable! 
The move to Eurocentrism is already happening, and almost all peeps have learnt at least some English, adopted some of our cultural ways and lifestyle habits!  BUT we ALSO need white folks as a whole to become more authentically afrocentric, more diversity literate, to get in touch with elements of indigenous culture that can allow us to experience and understand what ubuntu is.  This would allow us to empathise, to get involved, to reconnect, to experience community, fulfillment, purpose, and yes, even genuine joy!
And yet many ‘good’ white people and others find many justifications for leading lives of relatively grotesque overconsumption, whilst fully aware of the struggles, hardships, etc of others.  How can this be?  It seems that we have an ingrained superiority complex, not necessarily by race or culture, but my ‘civilisation’.  It’s the same default setting that non-technological societies aren’t worth much more than the occasional self-help book, or fantasy blockbuster!
So what would this balanced transformation look like?  Well ultimately to become more acquainted with a culture, you need to learn the language, and of course learning the language acts as a form of initiation into a culture, depending on degree of involvement.  It requires effort, discipline, humility, dedication, struggle, and ultimately achievement!  Its effect on oneself is profound and transformational, and its effect on one’s relationship with people of that culture shifts too, firstly as they appreciate and respect your efforts to learn the language, and then as you earn their trust and admiration as you make good progress!
This is especially effective and pertinent when a member of the previous oppressors learns the language and ways of the previously oppressed, voluntarily, by choice, an action that indicates a sincere effort to know, to learn, to understand the ‘other’ and discover ultimately the immense similarities we share under the surface shell of culture or religion or language!
I believe passionately about the ability to communicate and empathise with our fellow South Africans being an important factor in this country’s future.  I believe it will be a valuable experience for scholars who are still in a position to really learn Xhosa well. 
There is a lot to be learnt about the human spirit by experiencing people in their older, earthier ways of life, and thus my focus is on village experiences and other cultural immersions, a way to economically uplift rural areas, whilst remaining culturally sensitive and empowering ALL involved! 
You will need to watch our other videos and talks for more ideas and visions!  Its still very much a work in progress.
Thank you for reading this!

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Kaos Pilots Intro to Xhosa Culture and Language Workshop Video

An amazing organisation called the Kaos Pilots form Denmark, recently spent 3 months in Cape Town on an ‘Outpost’. 

For more on what they did and do, see here:

But they basically dropped a love bomb on the city of Cape Town.

When the Pilots first arrived, I gave a brief Intro to Xhosa language and Culture Workshop, the video you can view below:

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Westerford High School Xhosa and Mr. Cuan Dugmore

In the last few months, I have had the pleasure of being invited to a number of schools to either perform or show my kwaito spoof music video “Ndingumlungu”(viewable at bottom), and then to share my journey with the scholars, and hopefully inspire them to learn Xhosa.

It was a great privilege and I really enjoyed my time with the learners.  Unfortunately due to the new CAPS policy introduced by the Department of Education in the Western Cape, there is now a real threat to Xhosa being taught in many prep schools and even secondary schools.  For a full article on this dilemma, please see here:

Quite a White Ou and UBuntu Bridge hope to play a role in helping to keep Xhosa consciousness alight, respected and given the due importance that it deserves. 

One of the most delightful schools to go speak at is also one of the schools holding the Xhosa torch most brightly alight.  That school is Westerford High in Cape Town and thanks to their fantastic Xhosa teacher Mr. Cuan Dugmore (pictured above)  and the enlightened enthusiasm of many of their students, they have a wonderful Xhosa programme at their school, most of whom are members of the school’s Xhosa society, to whom I had the privilege of speaking.

Nina Bloch, one of the learners who also spent a few days interning at UBuntu Bridge, sent me a great letter written by one of her fellow students and this photo (above) of some of the learners with Mr. Dugmore in the Transkei, where they do annual immersion programmes, to connect with the authentic culture and to improve their spoken Xhosa.  Nice one Guys!

Click here to read the letter….

UBuntu Bridge also offers village immersions sporadically….

Email us for next dates, or create your own trip.  Any backpacker in the Eastern Cape or ‘Transkei’ will usually have a village homestay programme.  Take your Xhosa books and go for it!! 

Left:  The Kwaito video that got some things started!

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White youth bringing hope through Xhosa – article from a Westerford high school Xhosa student

 To see the context to this letter, please see previous blog post here…..
Ndithetha kancinci kuba ndingumlungu           Stewart S…
Being English and Afrikaans in the Western Cape, communicating in my home language is no big deal. Without exception, if I interact with someone whose first language is isiXhosa, the conversation takes place in either of my first languages. Just because I’m white, it’s presumed that I know absolutely no Xhosa, which is the second most widely-spoken in the language Western Cape after Afrikaans. I find that very unfair.
Someone’s language is an intrinsic part of their identity. Being able to communicate with someone in their mother tongue is a skill which gives one unrivalled rewards: apart from personal benefits like furthering one’s career, simply making an effort to learn more about other people’s cultures and languages is deeply appreciated, especially in the context of our segregated history. This reason, along with a multitude of others, makes taking isiXhosa an absolute no-brainer, in my opinion.
For those less concerned about communication for the sake of communication, the practical reasons for taking isiXhosa are just as compelling. If you speak to anyone worth asking about education in South Africa, or just about living here (Blade Nzimande – Minister of Higher Education, Nelson Mandela or Trevor Manuel, to name a few), they’ll tell you that before you go and study Astrophysics or Neurology at UCT, learn some Zulu or Xhosa. It looks good on your CV; certain University courses, such as Medicine, require it; it gives one a base from which to learn other Nguni languages and it’s a massive advantage in the business world, where you’re constantly interacting with people from a huge variety of backgrounds. Building strong relationships with people in your environment will always be to your advantage, not only within a business context, but in a social context as well.
For most Westerfordian Xhosa students, learning an African language goes further than that. To us, it’s a way to show that we’re committed to reconciliation in our country by embracing another language, and in the case of isiXhosa, the very rich culture surrounding that language. It’s a gesture which aims to forge connections between us and people we wouldn’t usually interact with.
I was utterly convinced that I had made the right decision once I’d been on the Transkei hike. I witnessed my motivations for taking Xhosa becoming reality in front of my eyes. After the first fifty awkward “Molo! Unjani?”s, my conversations with people started gaining substance. As my conversation partners realised that I had knowledge beyond “Molo”, their entire demeanours changed. The standard response I encountered was: “ Umlungu! Yuh, uyasazi isiXhosa?” (Whitey! Yoh, you know Xhosa?), followed by very enthusiastic small talk, drastically zekeleled (slowed down to umlungu-level), and the exchanging of details, ended off with extremely appreciative thanks for taking the time to find out more about them and to learn their language. 
Xolisanani is one of the people we met. He told Jeremy and me that we had made his day; that to find people who were learning his language by choice was an inspiration, and that he wished there were more people like us. To me, that is what learning isiXhosa is about. 
At Westerford, we’ve got some of the best isiXhosa teachers in the country. Let’s face it – Mnu. Dugmore uyintshatsheli(is a champion). There is undoubtedly no better place to learn the language. So what’s your excuse? Why are there only 13 people in my grade that feel the same way I do? Why are there 11 in matric and 15 in Grade 10? Next year’s Grade 10s couldn’t even manage double figures. What is making most Westerfordians ignore the amazing opportunity afforded to us here to enrich ourselves as South Africans?
There isn’t enough emphasis on indigenous languages by our generation. We have this strange misconception that we will either all emigrate to the land of milk and honey or that there is simply no need to learn an African language, or even Afrikaans, because English is the lingua franca. We expect other people to learn our language, but don’t even consider doing the same for our future colleagues and clients who don’t speak English as a first language. That’s the majority of the country, by the way. 
Apart from being selfish, these convictions are pretty naïve. I’ve heard the argument that Xhosa isn’t a ‘universal’ language, and so it is therefore pretty much useless to learn as opposed to, say, French. To that, I say “your argument is invalid.” Realistically, you will most probably live and work here later in life, and should therefore concentrate on what you can do to make ‘here’ a better place to be. Well, unless you find your fairytale French bride or groom and run off to Paris, or if you’re one of those refugee-status-seeking ninnies who run to Perth escaping the ‘dystopia’ of South Africa. I sincerely hope you aren’t, though, because I don’t think we’d be able to be friends.
This is not to say that learning a European language is a bad thing, or that if you don’t study an African language, you’re a traitor to your country. What it is doing is making you aware of the importance of learning one, and how rewarding it can be, especially at Westerford. There needs to be a shift in mindset, and a greater sense of responsibility to the future of our country by us, the upcoming generation of voters and economy-drivers.
Grade 9s, if you ever find yourself looking for that last option on your subject choice form, or if you’re just unsure about isiXhosa, take the plunge. For the rest of you, use Inspector Simon Eybers as inspiration. Apart from taking down Public Enemy Number One, The Nose, this man of steel decided halfway through term 1 of grade 10 that Xhosa was more to his liking than Accounting, and made the swap. 
Simon says, “Go for it.” So do.

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UBuntu Bridge Mandela Day Community Event 2012 Video

 On 18 July, 2012, Madiba’s 94th birthday, UBuntu Bridge organised a community day with a difference in Imizamo Yethu, Hout Bay, a.k.a. Mandela Park.

With a focus on Xhosa language learning for the volunteers, we then spent time with the kids from Ikhaya Lethemba creche planting trees, doing yoga, reading practice and finally singing Happy Birthday to Nelson Mandela in his home language, isiXhosa.

Nelson Mandela in one of his first public appearances in office, on May 10 1994, strongly urged all the people of South Africa to learn each other’s languages:

“This is the best way to contribute to nation building and reconciliation,”
Mandela said. “Those among us who do not know Afrikaans must now learn to study this language. Those among us who do not know Zulu, Xhosa and Sotho must now learn to study these languages.”

UBuntu Bridge hopes to inspire people to heed Madiba’s call, and to do it in a fun and convenient way that brings prosperity to many communities on all levels of society.

The day was made possible with help from:

Nathan and Terror of Sibanye Restaurant –
Stu and Jen from YoYoga –
Robyn at Greenpop –
Chris and Leticia at Paper Jet Print –
Niki, Sisa and the kids at Ikhaya Lethemba –
Andrew from Trashback –
Video by Gill at