Sunday, September 17, 2023


 Good morning, dear Blogger friends, Here I am on a roll and I hope to keep this up!

This week I celebrated an anniversary. I have not posted about this specific project, as I wanted to reach a year first. Well, that was this week.

In September 2022, my friend, Estelle, introduced me to Duolingo. She said she was learning Zulu via this app. Zulu is one of the 11 official languages in South Africa. Zulu is predominately spoken in Kwa-Zulu Natal. And Zulu is what my houselady, Thandi speaks. 

Over the five years that Thandi has worked for me, we have managed to communicate quite well. Now, with a year of helpful and practical Zulu phrases under my belt, I can really speak to her. She and I actually have conversations when we are traveling together to go and clean The Bunker. 

Way back in 2009, when we lived in Khartoum, Sudan (North Africa0, I felt very alieanated when trying to buy a product in the supermarket and especially when I ventured into the markets. I could not understand the Sudanese people and vice versa. Dear Grant got me an Arabic tutor. Twice a week, Amina, who spoke very basic English, came to our apartment and taught me practical Arabic. Within a short time, she and I caught a tuc tuc  to the markets. Once there, as I oohed and aahed over the pretty sandals or summer blouses, I'd look at her to enquire about the price. Wisely, she'd shake her head and say: YOU ask.  I learnt very quickly! While in that strictly Islamic country, when I was in the streets, I wore an abaya over my own clothes and a hijab covering over my head. It tickled me when I approached a stall owner and enquired the price of tomatoes in his language, that he would reply (in Arabic) hau, I thought  you were Sudanese lady!

The beautiful abaya Grant bought me for streetware
I found this photo of me wearing my abaya and a matching hijab, while shopping in our neighborhood

Moving to, and living in Kenya, in the Great Rift Valley in 2011, didn't pose any language problems. Everyone, except the very old and very young, spoke English.'

A year later we moved to a diamond mine in Tanzania. And once again, I was stumped. Almost everyone spoke Swahili. Smartphones and WhatsApp were only just making their appearance then; Apps were not yet heard of.  I bought a comprehensive book of phrases and vocabulary. My one house lady, Regina and the askari (gate guard) Michael, spoke good English and helped me with Swahili.  All the other staff at the guest house which I managed for Grant, with the exception of Chef Paul, spoke Kiswahili. With the help of Regina, Michael and Paul and also having to actually speak the language, I learnt quickly! 

Back in 2006, when I returned alone from West Africa and stayed home in our Free State home, I started rebuilding my garden. Great was my frustration when John, my gardener, misunderstood me. My son, Angus suggested I learn his language, Sesotho. Which I did. I took extra lessons from a teacher friend who gave Sesotho lessons after school.  What a treat to be able to actually converse with John while we worked together in the garden. I learnt interesting words from him too, like linonyana sehlahla (birds' nest); serurubele (butterfly); senqanqane (frog ). 

It's great fun learning another language! 

nihambe kahle nonke!
(Go well, everyone!) 


  1. I admire how you adapted and learned the local language when you lived in different countries, and now you have studied Zulu too. When I lived in Turkey I studied Turkish and it certainly helped me that I lived there as I learned.

  2. congratulations, I once tryed this with Spanish since half the people here speak that, but i quit after a week, kept failing the tests they gave me. you must have a knack for learning languages. i think if it wonderful how many you can now speak.

  3. Hello Jo,
    It is great you are able to speak so many languages. Take care, have a great day and happy new week!

  4. Congrats, Jo. That's a very impressive accomplishment, well done!

  5. Well done I am impressed my French is still rubbish, too many verbs for me and I cannot get the accent right. Hope you are well Diane

  6. Once you learn a second language, learning more comes easier to you.


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