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“Molo!” This is Michaela Gordon from Stanford Women’s Tennis and Jameson Kavel from Duke Softball. We’ve had a great first week here in Gordon’s Bay working with the Zola township and immersing ourselves in the culture of South Africa.

During our time here, we’ve been working on learning Xhosa, the local language spoken in Zola. Xhosa is among the most widely spoken of the 11 national languages of South Africa. It is characterized by its unique clicks that are included in many of its words. The letters x, c, and q are frequently pronounced with a variation of clicks. For example, the word “Xhosa” is actually spoken with a click at the beginning of the word.

“Through this experience, it has been amazing to see the ability of people from different cultures to bond with one another through a mutual desire to learn more about each other’s languages and culture.”

We were fortunate enough to receive a lesson in Xhosa during our first week from one of our community partners named Tsoarlo and had fun trying to pronounce the new words and phrases we learned. He emphasized how everyone in the community greets each other in passing and taught us how to carry on a conversation in Xhosa. Though we didn’t quite master the clicks, we were excited to go back to the township and talk to the kids using the new phrases we had learned. The kids had smiles on their faces the next day when we greeted them with “Molo” (“Hello”) and “Kunjani” (“How are you?”). We even spoke to the teachers and people we passed by in Xhosa, and they appreciated us trying to communicate in their language and take part in their culture. The kids also really enjoy it when we throw in Xhosa phrases as we are explaining lessons and activities. They try to teach us more phrases in Xhosa, laughing at our pronunciation, and helping to demonstrate the correct sounds for us.

student-athletes working together to teach a lesson on healthy eating
All of the ACE participants working together to teach a lesson on healthy eating

While practicing Xhosa is fun for both us and the kids, it also helps with our lessons that the kids understand and enjoy speaking English. Until the fourth grade, the kids are taught in their local languages, but then are switched to being taught and assessed in English. The fact that the kids are able to understand English makes playing sports and teaching lessons a lot easier for us and the kids because there is a limited language barrier. Every day, we teach the kids how to play sports with a lot of fun activities and drills, and then have a lesson about topics like healthy eating or the harmful effects of drugs and alcohol. The kids are able to understand, ask questions, and engage in our activities and sports. They really enjoy spelling lessons, learning new words, and practicing their English. After every lesson, they ask us, the ACE participant teachers, how to spell words or what specific words mean. It is cool to see how quickly they learn and how if you teach a child a word one day, they can pick it up and incorporate it into his or her work the next day. Through this experience, it has been amazing to see the ability of people from different cultures to bond with one another through a mutual desire to learn more about each other’s languages and culture.

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