Financial & Social Imperative
Learning a vernac language in South Africa can be a very rewarding, but also very challenging process, and because many of our incomes do not usually rely upon it, it is easy for us to keep putting it off. It is very much about priorities and the brain will tend to de-prioritise new subjects that require discomfort, as well as persistent effort, especially if the “gain” is not really valued. Whilst most people ‘s income do not yet rely on vernac language skills, there is a growing social imperative for people to prioritise an effort to master the basics of respectful communication, which is highly manageable.
Segregation & Discomfort
Then there is the issue of continued cultural segregation. Learning vernac properly in South Africa requires one to leave one’s comfort zone in a number of ways, socially, geographically and psychologically. Black peeps have been conditioned/forced to learn English and Afrikaans to get employment and to fit in to traditionally (Apartheid) ‘white’ or eurocentric spaces. It was also a way to maintain a status quo of dominance and subservience, as well as undermining self-esteem. Thus most ‘euro-centric spaces’ remain fairly safe for white peeps (creating a false or limited sense of self-esteem) and they can get away with speaking only their language (it seems), whereas sincere efforts to learn will take one into spaces that are more challenging, and uncomfortable. Whilst good for us, most people would rather choose comfortable distractions like series and sports 😉
Issues of Will or attitude
Given the above challenges, one can see there are many reasons people struggle with learning vernac languages, and perhaps the biggest is an issue of will. or attitude Some use age as an excuse, some claim to be ‘bad at languages’, other have chosen to believe it is not a priority, and thus never have time for it, even though ‘they really want to’.
The reality is that anyone of any age (who can speak any language) can learn at least some words of another language. Sure, some people pick up languages quick, just as some people are naturally good at certain activities from the beginning. It does not mean the rest of us cannot do that activity, or would not improve with practice and effort. Many people just like to use the excuse of not immediately being good at something to save them any effort from trying, or the discomfort of failing on the way to success.
If any person was put on an island where a foreign language was spoken exclusively, within a few months, let alone a year, they would have a highly functional grasp of that language.
So don’t put it off any longer. South Africa needs us to be able to speak each others languages and work together from a place of mutual respect!
Click here for an article 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).