Once upon a time, I studied Afrikaans. I loved it and left it behind when I finished matric. I was in the land of the Zulus. Nothing in my life signaled that I would ever need the language again. Fast forward 8 years and I found myself in the Cape with the biggest crush on an Afrikaans speaking teddy bear.
But this is not about me now being the wife of an Afrikaans man. It’s about the offspring of an Afrikaans man and a Zulu woman in the middle of Cape Town.
I think when I was pregnant with my little cub, one of my biggest concerns was language so I went into research mode. When I was done, I was convinced that the approach to go in our case would be “One parent, one language” approach. Each parent would speak their home language to the kid. Seemed like a plan…
But then there was the environment we were in. We live in a English/Afrikaans community, go to English church, and the closest relatives are Afrikaans. So I figured, my child would somewhere pick up some English with Afrikaans being his dominant language. I went on a crusade to find as many Zulu books as I can, that I would use to supplement his Zulu since I would be the only Zulu person he had exposure to on a regular basis and I was not ready to give up on him speaking my language. Seemed like a plan…
But then there was the caregiver. So throughout my pregnancy, I was determined to find a bilingual (Afrikaans/English) school where I could send my child when I went back to work. First prize would have been to keep my child at home but I did not have family close by who could look after him and I wasn’t keen on leaving my child with a stranger. One day, my house executive assistant mentioned that before she came to help with keeping our house clean that she was looking after kids. And so the seed was planted. We already loved to her to bits. Why wouldn’t we let her look after our kid? She brought in her references, numbers we crunched and we had a nanny. Nanny spoke isiXhosa so she would speak her language to my child. IsiXhosa was one of the main languages in the Cape so we figured it wouldn’t hurt if he learned it. So,at this point, we were on the “see what happens” plan.
And then fate intervened. Two of my sisters moved to the Cape. And all of a sudden there were 3 Zulus in the house. So as it stands, my child is exposed to 4 languages (isiZulu, Afrikaans, isiXhosa, English). We have no idea which ones will stick. All I know is his favourite song is a Zulu one and I’ve heard all those clicking sounds that he can now make. Time will tell what eventually comes out but until then we will continue putting in an effort in teaching him his home languages.
If you interested in reading to your child in their home language, here are some links with stories in different South African language. Happy reading!