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Online Ndebele lessons excite diaspora

by Staff reporter
08 Sep 2022 at 06:41hrs | Views
AFRICAN parents, Zimbabweans in particular, living in the diaspora are having a hard time passing on their culture to their children through language as each generation passes.

This is because the language of conversation in their families is foreign. Language is one of the main vehicles of passing culture among generations as it carries nuances of a people's beliefs and way of life through parts of speech such as idioms, proverbs, fables and day to day sayings.

Sometimes, deeper meanings of cultural activities are lost in translation to other languages and result in watered down culture being passed to next generations.

With time, a people's culture can become entirely lost.

Stories of children visiting their parents' homelands and not having a clue how to speak vernacular languages or appreciate basic cultural events are the order of the day.

Relatives in Zimbabwe have come to accept that their nieces, nephews and grandchildren from the diaspora will converse with them in English.

Elders, for instance, are often "harassed" by their grandchildren who visit them in the rural areas from the diaspora and fail to converse in basic IsiNdebele.

Some parents are longing for their children to at least connect with their roots, through language.

In comes people like Ms Muzi Ndlovu (31), a graduate in BCom in Tourism Management from a South African university, who went back to her childhood passion of teaching.

The last born in a family of three, Ms Ndlovu learnt at Girls College in Bulawayo and completed her A'Levels there.

"I'm very passionate about languages. I speak a couple, such as English, IsiNdebele, and Shona and I lived in South Africa when

I was in university and then picked up Sotho, Pedi, Tswana, Zulu, and SiSwati, unfortunately, I didn't catch on isiXhosa," she said.

Ms Ndlovu said her desire started in 2019 when she tweeted Econet asking to be the telecoms giant's translator.

"This was because Econet had been churning out work that had spelling errors. Then people started asking me to teach them isiNdebele but I put that on hold wanting to be a translator for the corporates.

"I started teaching isiNdebele online in 2020 when Covid hit. I was initially supposed to go abroad to teach but, a lot of people have been saying teach us isiNdebele because I was being very vocal about the language and it not being distorted because of spelling.

"After Covid hit, I couldn't go anywhere and I was like to myself, why not? So, at 2AM one day in 2020, I did a poster and scheduled to post it on Twitter at 6AM and I got my first four clients on that day," said Ms Ndlovu.

She said a majority of her students are from the diaspora.

"They are always excited to learn and they always want to learn more. Because a lot of them left Zimbabwe when they were very young and lost the language along the way. Some of them are recapping the language. Others are moms and dads, and they want their children to know the language and culture as well," said Ms Ndlovu.

She said she conducts her lessons over Zoom, Microsoft Teams or WhatsApp and teaches her students the basics, to communicate with relatives back home.

"I'm very flexible depending on what my student prefers. I teach beginner isiNdebele, how to read, sound words, pronunciation, greetings, types of food, how to ask for help, common sayings and phrases," said Ms Ndlovu.

Teaching is in her blood, Ms Ndlovu said, as her grandfather was a teacher.

"Growing up I always wanted to be a teacher because there's a home video which was recorded by my dad when I was five years old. In the video whoever was recording says, ‘Muzi favourite kaBaba' I'm like yes, then he says what do you want to be when you grow up, I then said I wanted to be a teacher, and said I wanted to teach English, Ndebele and Content," said Miss Ndlovu.

She also teaches English as a second language as she is a qualified tutor in English as a Foreign Language.

Ms Ndlovu said what drives her was her passion for unlocking people's abilities be it in a language or a task that they want to do.

"I love helping people and because this is who I am, I'm very patient in whatever I do. So, when people find out that I teach isiNdebele, to people who don't know it, they ask how I do it because it must be frustrating. I don't look at it like that, it is an aha moment, anything that is done well is done with patience. And my students are able to speak isiNdebele because of the patience that I have had with them," said Ms Ndlovu.

She said IsiNdebele is a beautiful language and easy to learn.

"There's this belief that it's hard to learn because of the clicks. But it's not every sentence that you are speaking where you are using clicks. It's romantic and it's like a song when you listen to it. When people are speaking you can fall in love with it," said Ms Ndlovu.

She said keeping the language alive was important to preserve culture.

"It's important to keep the language alive so that people don't find themselves being unable to speak or spell words. There are so many words that are mispronounced, for example, in the word ukugodola, you say ngiyagodola, but you have other people saying ngiyagodolwa. I want to keep people proud of the language," said Ms Ndlovu.

She has an infectious way of infusing passion into her voice as she animatedly speaks about the language, which inspires a listener to want to learn more.

Source - The Chronicle