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SA Language Info Wanted

SA Language Info Wanted

Old Jan 17th 2005, 2:18 pm
  #1  
Odysseus
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Default SA Language Info Wanted

I will be going on a Tauck escorted tour of South Africa in April. I'll
be visiting Cape Town, Pilgrims Rest, Sabi Sabi, Johannesburg, and
Victoria Falls.

When I visit a country I like to buy a foreign language phrase book and make
some attempt to speak to people in their own language. When I went to
Australia I even learned some "Strine" (Australian slang for their dialect).

In researching SA, I learned that eleven languages are spoken there. Which
one(s) would be most useful to learn a few phrases in?

I saw a listing of phrases in Afrikaans and isiXhosa. The Afrikaans looked
learnable (I speak a little German). The isiXhosa looked almost unpronounceable
for an English speaker. BTW, why do the names of SA native languages
begin with a lower case letter? I'm not ridiculing them; I'm just curious.
 
Old Jan 17th 2005, 5:29 pm
  #2  
Dave Patterson
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Default Re: SA Language Info Wanted

Odysseus wrote:

    > BTW, why do the names of SA native languages
    > begin with a lower case letter? I'm not ridiculing them; I'm just curious.

As I recall colonialism, we brought the capital letters with us.
I'm not ridiculing you; I'm just reminding all of us why
some things seem unusual that really aren't.
 
Old Jan 17th 2005, 11:58 pm
  #3  
Odysseus
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Default Re: SA Language Info Wanted

In article <[email protected]>, [email protected] says...
    >Odysseus wrote:
    >> BTW, why do the names of SA native languages
    >> begin with a lower case letter? I'm not ridiculing them; I'm just curious.
    >As I recall colonialism, we brought the capital letters with us.
    >I'm not ridiculing you; I'm just reminding all of us why
    >some things seem unusual that really aren't.

The colonists also brought the latin alphabet and with them the punctuation
rules. I guess the native people were free to make their own rules when
adapting the latin alphabet to their language.
 
Old Jan 18th 2005, 6:17 am
  #4  
Marc Lurie
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Default Re: SA Language Info Wanted

Afrikaans is the most widely spoken language in South Africa (Now I
lean back and wait for the flames...)

Many people don't realize that Afrikaans is understood (although
sometimes only poorly) by the majority of South Africans. While Zulu
and Xhosa speakers are numerically in the majority, the two languages
are not generally understood throughout the country.

Learning some phrases in Afrikaans might be advantageous, and somewhat
appreciated by some of us locals ;-) If you speak German, you will
very little trouble learning a lot of Afrikaans.

I'd also learn simple phrases in isiZulu and isiXhosa such as "Thank
you", "good morning" etc.

One thing I must mention is that you should be aware that Afrikaans is
widely considered to be the language of the oppressor, and is the most
enduring (and ubiquitous) relic of apartheid. You could anger people
if you used Afrikaans in an inapropriate manner. (For example, if you
instructed an English speaking person in Afrikaans, or spoke Afrikaans
instead of English to a Zulu/English speaker in kwaZulu Natal.)

I'm afraid I can't authoritatively answer your question about the
lower case spelling of languages, but as far as I understand the
situation, the tribal affilliation is capitalised (Zulu, Xhosa etc)
because it is important. The language of the tribe, or the
geographical location of the tribe etc. (isiZulu, kwaZulu) is of less
importance, and therefore no capitalised.

However, AFAIK the languages of the Sotho and Tswana people speak
Sesotho and Setswana, both with capital letters.

Marc

On Mon, 17 Jan 2005 15:18:21 GMT, Odysseus <[email protected]> wrote:

    >I will be going on a Tauck escorted tour of South Africa in April. I'll
    >be visiting Cape Town, Pilgrims Rest, Sabi Sabi, Johannesburg, and
    >Victoria Falls.
    >When I visit a country I like to buy a foreign language phrase book and make
    >some attempt to speak to people in their own language. When I went to
    >Australia I even learned some "Strine" (Australian slang for their dialect).
    >In researching SA, I learned that eleven languages are spoken there. Which
    >one(s) would be most useful to learn a few phrases in?
    >I saw a listing of phrases in Afrikaans and isiXhosa. The Afrikaans looked
    >learnable (I speak a little German). The isiXhosa looked almost unpronounceable
    >for an English speaker. BTW, why do the names of SA native languages
    >begin with a lower case letter? I'm not ridiculing them; I'm just curious.
 
Old Jan 18th 2005, 2:28 pm
  #5  
Sinisterius
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Default Re: SA Language Info Wanted

    > In researching SA, I learned that eleven languages are spoken there. Which
    > one(s) would be most useful to learn a few phrases in?

English should be no problem in tourist-crowded areas, but don't mind if you
are looked at as nothing more but a tourist then. The Coloured people from
the Cape will be glad to hear you use their mother tongue, Afrikaans. Some
Zulu phrases could be handy in Johannesburg, though English would do it. The
native language spoken in the eastern Transvaal region is AFAIK rather
Tsonga than Zulu or Xhosa.

    > BTW, why do the names of SA native languages
    > begin with a lower case letter? I'm not ridiculing them; I'm just
    > curious.

These languages use a "class" system to classify words, and the classes and
numbers within that classes are identified by prefixes. The prefix is always
written in lower case, while proper names are written upper case, as in most
other languages. So "isi" is just the singular prefix for the class that is
used for language names, and "Zulu" the actual word stem which is written
uppercase because it is a proper name. Hope this helps somewhat.

Sinisterius
 
Old Jan 23rd 2005, 4:53 pm
  #6  
Odysseus
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Posts: n/a
Default Re: SA Language Info Wanted

    >English should be no problem in tourist-crowded areas, but don't mind if you
    >are looked at as nothing more but a tourist then. The Coloured people from
    >the Cape will be glad to hear you use their mother tongue, Afrikaans. Some
    >Zulu phrases could be handy in Johannesburg, though English would do it. The
    >native language spoken in the eastern Transvaal region is AFAIK rather
    >Tsonga than Zulu or Xhosa.

Thank you to everybody who helped. I will go to my local library and get the
Afrikaans tapes. I would like to buy a small pocket Afrikaans phrase book but
cannot find one even at Amazon or Barnes and Noble. Maybe I can find one in
SA.

    >These languages use a "class" system to classify words, and the classes and
    >numbers within that classes are identified by prefixes. The prefix is always
    >written in lower case, while proper names are written upper case, as in most
    >other languages. So "isi" is just the singular prefix for the class that is
    >used for language names, and "Zulu" the actual word stem which is written
    >uppercase because it is a proper name. Hope this helps somewhat.

I think I understand now. It's like writing the-language-of-the-French.
 

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