Trying to speak the same language - Sowetan LIVE | Metaglossia: The Translation World |

BHEKI Sele. Tabo Ma-beki. Senzo Msunu. Kagalima Mokla-Ante.

This is just an example of how African names are remorselessly butchered by people who clearly have no intention of learning a thing about African languages.

So, Cele becomes "Sele" - dangerously close to "isela", a thief in isiXhosa.

Mbeki is "Ma-beki" - a problematic word for a man as the prefix "Ma" denotes "Mom" in Nguni languages.

Mchunu is "Msunu" - often used as an insulting word when used in a particular context in siSwati.

Only God knows what Mokla-Ante means. Even Google can't hazard a guess.

That's how Africans are generally insulted, unwittingly though, by their white compatriots on a daily basis.

We laugh about some of these pronunciations. But this is not a laughing matter. It's a national cultural crisis.

It's intriguing that white South Africans have been in this country for centuries and yet are unable to speak African languages.

In fact, many have never taken the trouble to try.

So bizarre is the situation that some white members and leaders of the ANC find it difficult, if not impossible, to sing the organisation's songs composed in African languages.

It's always embarrassing watching them in conferences raising their clenched fists with their mouths zipped.

You can rest assured they aren't even humming the song.

Beyond the chant "Amandla!", which is often mispronounced, they can barely construct a phrase, let alone a sentence, in any African language.