There are eleven official languages in South Africa—Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Northern Sotho, Sotho, Swazi, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa and Zulu. Most South Africans speak more than one of these, and a lot of them speak several and can converse easily between several of them. We were listening to a group of young men talking to each other while waiting for one of the institute classes and asked what language they were speaking. They were speaking FIVE different languages in all and all of the listeners were able to understand what the others were saying.
We haven’t tried very hard to learn any of the languages since virtually everyone speaks English, but occasionally we’ll get a bit of a language lesson. The five-year-old boy who lives in the house in front of ours occasionally will try to tell us something in Afrikaans, forgetting that we don’t speak the language. In fact adults have spoken to us in Afrikaans, assuming that since we are white, we must speak it. (Afrikaans is derived from the Dutch language and was developed by early white settlers.) People often try to help us pronounce the names, but it’s a challenge for us. The counselor we work with in the stake presidency has the last name of Sehloho, which sounds nothing like it looks. One of our bishop’s name is Bishop Gqibitolecz which require a click immediately followed by a b-t sound. Not possible for us so I’m sure when we say his name he only knows we are addressing him because we are looking at him. Some last names start with GQX, others with MV, NV, TL and lots of other fun combinations. In this little video, these kids are trying to teach me a word in what I think was Xhosa and if I remember correctly, the word was eggs since that was what I was cooking. As you can see, the language lesson it isn’t just repeating the word; it’s trying to figure out how the click can be so quickly followed by a consonant.