Xitsonga: How can a marginalised language thrive?

Vatsonga need to be able to use their language proudly. (Supplied)

Vatsonga need to be able to use their language proudly. (Supplied)

To make it worse, it is in a state of collapse and we haven’t been able to find new writers in the language.

Then, more threatening perhaps, Vatsonga are often humiliated and, at its worst, this manifests itself in xenophobic attacks.

It affects our young people. With Vatsonga having suffered the most social discrimination at the hands of other African groups how do Mutsonga youth thrive in a society which regards them as subhuman?

Our children are not interested in advancing the language but rather in hiding their identity. They cannot be blamed because there is a lack of encouragement from their parents. It is also seen as socially acceptable rather to speak English.

In honour of Youth Day the M&G has published a series of takes on all our official languages. Read the rest here.

The youth do not see future opportunities for the language. How they can use Xitsonga as a language of business when, in many people’s minds, it doesn’t offer any opportunities in the business world?

How do we change the thinking of our kids to love and appreciate their language with the same zeal and courage as the youth of 1976?

The only option that is available to us is to make sure that proficiency in Xitsonga is taken seriously.

The only writers we have write for school curricula, the only books are those prescribed at school. With the dawn of technology we need blogs in Xitsonga to encourage the culture of reading in the language and to help our children to use the language correctly.

Television and radio have the power to advance our language, but ­television is not accessible to us.

Programmes in the language would go a long way to helping to undo the stereotypes – many of our people will then proudly use their language without fear of being called hurtful names.

A Mutsonga can speak Xitsonga in Maputo or Harare and rest assured that he will never feel alienated or fear being attacked – but it’s not the same in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Polokwane, Cape Town, Durban or any small town in South Africa.

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