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Afrikaans and English in South Africa

 

When they took me home, the entire family was there – aunts, uncles, and cousins- and they were having a big barbecue.   It was just really overwhelming.

And although they did speak Afrikaans, they were totally bilingual, so they could speak English.  But generally what would happen is they would start out speaking English for me, and then about halfway through everybody would start speaking Afrikaans — not really realizing what they did.

So, I would find myself falling asleep and people were talking and I just didn’t understand what was going on.  And then everyone said, oh, Kathy, oh, and then they’d start speaking in English again.

 

 

On my host dad’s side, he had a brother that lived nearby and his wife was an English speaker.  The way it worked was whatever language the mother had was the language the kids would speak.  So because she was English, all those cousins spoke English.  So most of the time they spoke English, although they were bilingual as well.

Then my mom’s brother also  lived close by, and they were both Afrikaans, so those kids only spoke Afrikaans.  So communicating with the different kids was kind of interesting, getting to know, you know, who could speak what.

But getting used to their slang — they say, “just now” for, like, “in a while” or “later on”.   They knew I played the piano, and they said “we’re going to have you play just now”, and I thought that meant like, this minute.   It would just make me nervous and I would keep forgetting that “just now” actually meant “well, maybe someday”.   So I was all panicked.  But it was like, no, it didn’t mean right then.  It was later.  And by the time I got back to the states I was saying “just now” all the time and people didn’t understand what I was saying.

I was really worried that I was going to do something wrong. 

I was really trying to pay a lot of attention to what I was doing, and catching on to the accent and figuring out what it was they were talking about.  And the kids had a lot of questions for me.  Like, do you really eat peanut butter and jelly?  And I said, yeah.  Because jelly there is Jell-O, and so they were imagining people eating peanut butter with Jell-O.  And I said, well, it’s peanut butter and jam, really.  So, “Oh, okay.  We get it now.”

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