I have a confession to make… I get caught like a deer in headlights every time I am to greet someone. And it is EXTREMELY RUDE to not greet people. I get that… It was same way in my family and the communities I grew up in.
At this point, I have heard people greet in Zulu numerous times (and several other languages, too, I might add). I am okay with not knowing all of the 11 OFFICIAL LANGUAGES (OMG!) of South Africa – Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Northern Sotho, Sotho, Swazi, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa, and Zulu. My goal is to be conversational and respectfully make an attempt to bridge a communication gap when one appears.
I am also interested in expanding my ability to communicate with others beyond written and spoken English because there are so many limitations to only having that as a recourse. I also see it as a form of entitlement to expect that people should always seek to communicate with me without making attempts to reciprocate… especially when making a decision to visit their country. A great host will work to make you feel welcome, still I believe the visit is enhanced when that type of respect is extended both ways.
I have experienced great satisfaction with having basic understanding of American Sign Language and have found that when I try, those I am seeking to communicate with will help me. I have found the same to be true when I try to make the most of my three years of Spanish from high school and attempt to communicate with Spanish speaking people in restaurants and other places.
The difference here is that I have never been submerged in a culture where I had to use a different language. As long as I have options, I use them. That other part of me has never been switched on. It makes me wonder how much of my full potential still lies dormant simply because I do not have to fully engage whatever scenario.
My challenge is that when people are speaking Zulu (sign language or Spanish), they are also using slang and speak very quickly, as anyone else would. So it’s like practicing saying, “Hello, how are you doing?” And then finding people saying, “Hey, what’s up?”
My confidence needs building up in this area… There are some extra phrases included here, but this the general conversation.