Heritage Month: Learn to greet in all 12 official languages

Celebrating heritage month as a South African can mean many different things. Included in this wonderful mix of colours and cultures lies an integral part of our heritage, our language. Where most countries have one, maybe two native tongues, our rainbow nation has at least 35 indigenous languages. 10 of these form part of South Africa’s 12 official home languages. A country rich in culture indeed.

Knowing that there are these 12 languages, including sign language, is one thing. Being able to speak them is a completely different story. Throughout the month we will be taking a look, and a listen, to all of these languages so that we would be able to greet our fellow South Africans properly.

Our language journey starts with the well-known and primary language used in parliamentary and state discourse, English. Most South Africans, regardless of their culture, understand basic English. Greeting in English can vary from a very casual “hi” or “hello” to a more respectful “good morning.”

An example of traditional Venda attire created by local fashion designer TJ Venda Traditional Clothing. Image via TJ’s facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/TJVTC

Our next stop is Tshivenda. Today Venda forms part of the Limpopo province and is the smallest of the South African cultures. Their culture is deeply rooted in the spirit world which you can see clearly expressed in woodcarvings, pottery, and building decor. The Venda word for good morning is “ndi mathseloni”. A general hello would be “ndaa” for men and “aa” for women. Sounds easy enough!

Traditional Xitsonga attire. Image source: https://curvesonme.wordpress.com/2014/07/30/xitsonga-rainbow/

Another one of our native languages is Xitsonga. Also known as Tsonga, which is a term often used as a cover term for Xitsonga, Tswa and Ronga. You will find a variety of dialects within the Tsonga language group. Known for their colourful traditional clothes, the Tsonga culture is the inspiration to many urban weddings. If you love energetic music and a variety of dance styles, this is where to find it. The Tsonga word for hello is “avuxeni”.

Truly a rainbow journey, not only by sight but also by sound.


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