On 23 February, the Minister of Arts and Culture, Nathi Mthwethwa, announced new names for some cities and towns in the Eastern Cape. Among them are Port Elizabeth, now Gqeberha; Maclear, now Nqanqarhu; and King William’s Town, which will be known as iQoonce in future. Most people – whether they speak English, Afrikaans or even isiXhosa – are quite intimidated by the click sounds in these new names, and are hesitant to even try to pronounce them. The renaming seems not to have been well received, and there are people who are petitioning to reverse the name changes.
But could one find something positive in this?
Zandile Kondowe, isiXhosa lecturer at the Language Centre, has indeed had a heart-warming experience. When she discussed the new names with some of her current and former students, they were very engaged – also on social media. It wasn’t long before they jumped in and started teaching others how to pronounce the new names and how to grow to love them. “This way, these students did not only show respect to me as their isiXhosa teacher, but they also honoured all isiXhosa speakers and showed how they valued the isiXhosa language and culture. Seeing their commitment reminded me of Neville Alexander, who was a great advocate for using African languages in powerful ways and in different social domains.”
To Zandile, her students’ commitment is a wonderful example of showing respect for human rights, as well: “Instead of criticising the way in which the new town names are pronounced, they took it upon themselves to learn how to pronounce them and then reached out to help those who had trouble pronouncing them.”
Zandile would like to invite anyone who feels unsure about pronouncing those names here at Stellenbosch University to e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org. “We would love to teach you how to pronounce the names, and we have some great interactive isiXhosa short courses you can join, too!”
Have a look at the videos by some of Zandile’s students to get ready for those clicks!
Adnene Janse van Rensburg helps us to click away:
And here we have some more help from Austin Pepar:
– by Zandile Kondowe and Susan Lotz