Wednesday, October 19, 2011

South African countries that "Click"

We are in one of the countries that speaks with clicks. They also do that guttural sound that is found in French, Hebrew and some other languages. I can't do the guttural thing, but am surprisingly good at the clicks.

The clicks came from the Bushmen, who have been mostly bred out of existence or killed off. In middle school, or maybe early high school, we watched the movie "The Gods must be Crazy." Those men are the last of the Bushmen. There is an effort to restore some of their native lands in different countries. Though the genocide started thousands of years ago, the problems they face are similar to American Indians and Australian Aborigines.

Different clicks mean different things. Mostly they are found in the words for land formations and towns, such as Quthing. Quthing is a town south of Maseru. "Q" is the click. To pronounce the name click + "ting". Easy! Another consonant combination that is similar to a click is "tl." For example the word tlou meaning elephant is supposed to sound like "tl" similar to "little", but is actually said with the tongue up against the top of the mouth and a strong exhale. This sound is heard in many common words and when listening to native speakers conversing quickly together, it sounds like clicks.

The sound I struggle with is the "kh" in "khotso". "Khotso" means peace is Sesotho. It is pronounced clear your throat + "otso". Some of the other sounds are harder to describe. Ntsepase is a woman's name. It is pronounced "N ss paa see".

Learning the language is harder than it needs to be. Sesotho was first written 100 years ago by French missionaries. Lesotho then became an English protectorate. So we have French spellings, and British pronunciation guides, which are all very different than American English and pronunciation.

Sites like this one do help.

While looking up south African clicks I found this site and thought it was interesting.

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