Talk the talk

By: Paul Mabote

Writer, Poet, Recording Hip Hop Artist, Community Builder.

Hello, sawubona, dumela. There are over 7000 living languages in the world, think about how impressive it would be to be able to say hello in each one of them. 21 February is World Mother Tongue Language Day, an annual observance, as describes it, held to promote awareness of linguistic and cultural diversity; and to promote multilingualism.

Talk The Talk

South Africa alone has 11 official languages, and Activator Kay-Dee Mashile is fluent in not 3, not 4, but 10 of them. From Mpumalanga, Kay-Dee is a poet, an author and a former magazine language editor, amongst other things. Khotso Dineo Mashile says she owes her ability to relate to many cultures to the constant moving around that her family has done over the years, since she was very young.

In 2016, Kay-Dee released her first book, Kingdom Poetry, which is a collection of her original poems. She says that her heart is for Africa. Her dream is for African children to be able to write their stories, in their own narrative, and be able to receive praise, recognition and wealth from it.

Big Dreams

Kay-Dee is the Managing Director at Perfect Love Publications, under which she is running a project which is aimed at mentoring young people in schools. She is also in the process of starting a foundation in Mpumalanga. This will be a youth development centre focusing on the needs of young people, one of the main objectives being to help young people learn to articulate themselves better. Dineo believes that literature can be a powerful driver towards economic freedom. She also encourages the learning of new languages and cultures as she trusts that if we can communicate better, we can be better able to assist one another.

Music Is Like Magic

Music knows no language; in fact, music is the language of the soul. It has the power to build and destroy societies, to melt hearts and to unify broken nations. Activator Fosh Pilato is a songwriter and recording hip hop musician from Kagiso, west of Johannesburg. He writes and delivers some of his music in his home language of Setswana. Fosh says that there is a certain level of gratification that comes from creatively expressing oneself in one’s mother tongue. Although this may sometimes compromise certain portions of the audience, Fosh Pilato believes that the greatest works of art in the world are those that are deeply felt, and not necessarily comprehended.


According to’s list of nearly extinct languages, there are 46 languages in Africa that are near extinction. This is the result of under usage of the languages, and the failure of them being passed down to new generations. 2015 Activator Kgamedi Thabang from Hammanskraal expressed the following sentiment during a recent Whatsapp chat:

“…I must say that our basic education has failed us as Afrikans. Back during primary and secondary school years, we were being taught more English than our mother tongue. The teachers even went as far as teaching our mother tongue in English. I grew up with the view that our home languages were not important. I never took them serious until now at my age.”  

Kgamedi says that home languages are very important as they define one’s ethnicity and roots. He says that to promote the protection of our indigenous languages, more teaching in schools should be done in vernacular.

Totally To Die For

When the words “school”, “language” and “teaching” are mentioned together, one cannot help but be reminded of the famous 1976 Soweto Student Uprising. This was where township students clashed with the police, in protest against the use of Afrikaans as the medium of teaching and learning in public schools. There is also a Martyr Monument in Bangladesh, which commemorates those who were killed in the 21 February 1952 Bengali language movement demonstration.

Such historic events go to prove the sacredness of our mother tongues and the importance of preserving, protecting and keeping them alive.

Each One Teach One

Nhlanhla Mbawula Nkosi is an Activator from Thokoza, in Soweto. He is a public speaker, a self-proclaimed book-worm and he runs a reading club for youth in his home town. He says that books are such powerful tools in the emancipation of one’s mind, and the learning of new cultures. He has always been fascinated by language in literature and has ambitions of writing a series of books in his home language of IsiZulu.

If we taught someone one word or phrase in our mother tongue every day, and in exchange they taught us a word or a phrase in their own mother tongue, soon we would have a world with less conflict and more love and understanding.

Nelson Mandela said that “if you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”

Lets Talk!!

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