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About this story

Author: Christine Mehta

Date: January 2011

People: Simphiwe Mbakaqana, Christine Mehta, Shayna Meliker

Simphiwe Mbakaqana taught reporter Christine Mehta a few key words in Xhosa — and a handshake.

Data points: According to a 2001 count, in Eastern Cape Province, where Grahamstown is situated, 83.4% of the people speak Xhosa; 9.3% speak Afrikaans; 3.6% speak English; and 3.7% speak another language. There are 11 official languages in South Africa.

“How are you?” Say it in Xhosa

By: Christine Mehta

Perched on a mountaintop overlooking Grahamstown, Syracuse University reporters Christine Mehta and Shayna Meliker received a lesson in how to carry on a basic conversation in Xhosa, the indigenous African language and culture prevalent in the region.

Their instructor, Simphiwe Mbakaqana, is a traditional Xhosa nurse who helps young Xhosa men through the rite of circumcision, part of the process of passing into manhood.

Simphiwe taught Christine and Shayna how to greet someone, inquire how they are, and how to shake hands in Xhosa culture.

Vocabulary

Hello: “Molo”

How are you?: “Unjani wena?”

I am fine: “Ndiphilile”

Nice to meet you: “Kumnandi ukudibana nawe”

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