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Woordfees festival goers’ willingness to learn isiXhosa gives students hope
Author: Pia Nänny
Published: 14/03/2019

Students participating in the #Amagama project at the Woordfees this year were pleasantly surprised about people's willingness to learn isiXhosa.

Amagama means “vocabulary" in isiXhosa and the project, now in its second year, aims to cross language and cultural barriers by teaching festival goers basic isiXhosa words and sentences.

A group of 14 Education students from Stellenbosch University (SU) with isiXhosa as major volunteered to do duty at various venues during the Woordfees last week. Their experience was very positive.

Anathi Sokweba believes that diversity should be celebrated.

“Teaching isiXhosa to anyone who showed an interest during the festival was an opportunity to get a feel of what an inclusive classroom would require of me as a teacher. Breaking language barriers has a massive impact on how people relate to each other.

“I could not believe how many white people were interested in learning isiXhosa. Seeing people participate in the project gave me hope for a better future," Sokweba added.

Marie-Louise Hellstrom is very passionate about isiXhosa.

“It was wonderful to see people's faces light up when they recognised a word and could finally put meaning to it. There is nothing as rewarding as seeing a person learn."

Carly Beavon believes that speaking to someone in their mother tongue is the ultimate form of respect.

“I found that younger people were more eager to learn the language and that many of the older festival goers were intimidated by the clicks. However, I had a wonderful experience with an older lady who would come every day to learn the words and to practise the words from the previous day. She explained that she enjoyed speaking to her gardener in his home language and wanted to know more so that they could have more meaningful conversations."

Roland van Vuuren describes isiXhosa as a fun language with a rich culture behind it.

“I had a great time teaching people from all walks of life how to speak isiXhosa. There was a fantastic response and we got a lot of attention. One of the highlights of the project was when a young couple who had adopted a Xhosa child wanted to learn more about isiXhosa and the AmaXhosa culture so that they could teach their child about its heritage."

According to Raechelle Gouws, their group was visited by a man who stayed for approximately two hours to learn all the sentences and words.

“The security guard posted at the station was so interested in the project that she joined in and helped the man with his pronunciation."

Chané Terblanche participated in the project to improve her self-confidence when it comes to speaking and teaching isiXhosa.

“The highlight of the week for me was to see how many older people were interested in learning a new language. It makes me hopeful to know that there is still a chance of a rainbow nation coming together, learning about and from one another."