I was born and raised in Bulawayo and I get exactly was both writers are talking about. I was always struck by how one didn’t need to speak Shona in Bulawayo (a predominantly Ndebele speaking City) while you could not survive in Harare if you didn’t speak Shona.
My dear mother is a perfect example of this. She is Shona and moved to Bulawayo in 1982. To this day, she can barely string together a sentence in Ndebele. Her best friend of the last 13 years is Ndebele. She (her best friend) can speak Shona but mum makes absolutely no effort to learn Ndebele. And this type scenario is very common i.e. you can get about in Bulawayo with only Shona as your spoken language while in Harare speaking Shona is almost a prerequisite to anything.
It’s all a damn shame really. I have a Ndebele friends who despise Shona people for just that. I agree, as one of the writers notes, learning each other’s languages is crucial to national unity. In South Africa, white South Africans, on the whole, make no effort to learn “African languages” and that in itself is proving to be a barrier to national Unity.
If I ruled the world, I might make one new universal language for everyone and eliminate all the rest…just so no one would think their language was more superior to others. But I don’t rule the world, never will, and so we shall remain with multiple languages…which in itself is a beautiful thing. We just need to make an effort to learn each others’ languages, especially if your place of residence has a language that differs from your own. As von Goethe once said, “He who does not know foreign languages does not know anything about his own”.
**** just scribbling my thoughts ****
Dating back from 1987, Zimbabwe’s Unity Day celebrates the coming together of the country’s two political parties (Zanu PF and PF Zapu) into a mega political force. Almost 30 years on and 22 December is now a public holiday with all the rituals and fanfare synonymous with Zimbabwean national events -cue obligatory national holiday theme song:
Unity Day is a political occasion. However, this is not a political post. Rather, it’s about another aspect that’s not often publicised but is nevertheless crucial to discourse on Zimbabwean current affairs. The Shona/Ndebele language struggle is one that many Zimbabweans face and have to deal with. Shona is the language of power in the country’s landscape. It’s possible to go your whole life without learning Ndebele – to be honest, there isn’t a drive or push that encourages people to learn the language. However, the reality for those not born into the Shona language group…
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