Thursday, May 2, 2013

“A cold war of As and Twangs”

Rudolph Nkgadima

As young a boy growing up in Thokoza, a township in the East Rand, South Africa, I always envied my peers who went to Model C schools in town or the suburbs. This was not because of the beautiful school buildings they had or the wonderful stories they would often narrate to us about sons and daughters of "so and so" they schooled with. What made me envy them was the way they spoke English with that distinctive manner of pronunciation.

Their "English" was the pride of their families. They would often be paraded when visitors came over and would be asked to show off the best possible twangs to guests who would exclaim in all kinds of excitement.

Every parent in the neighbourhood wanted to have kids like that; I also wanted to be that kid. It didn't matter that I was a straight A learner at school - I didn't have the accent and thus wasn't quite like them. According to everyone in the township the British Queen's language was a symbol of status.

Such inclinations made me angry and despise my own but more especially I felt that my intelligence was insulted. I didn't understand why township folk could not celebrate my straight A performances at school. This was the beginning of a lengthy journey of trying to find the twang.

Until I got to varsity I always thought that for me to be taken seriously or regarded as smart I should strive to learn to speak English with that accent. But I got the shock of my life on realising that the "smart" kids who laugh at everyone based on the posh nature of their accent aren't as smart as I had initially thought. I realised some in class would focus on how they speak rather than the content of what they say.

It was the beginning of great things, it meant that I could freely and proudly speak my views without a sense of inferiority, it had dawned on me that the queen's language is not a symbol of intelligence but merely a language.

The twang still eludes me but I have come to terms with that and I can proudly say I'm relieved my parents invested in my education, not the twang.

On that same token I urge everyone, irrespective of colour or culture, to respect and be proud of who they are. The person sitting next to you might not have the ability to communicate in English but that does not reduce them to a lesser human being than you.

Meetsi, Moya, Mollo (Water, Spirit and Fire) ALUTA CONTINUA!

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