Author: Peter Schoon

Learning another language

It has been my dream/desire/wish to learn to speak isiZulu, this for several reasons, a few of which I mention here…

  1. I know that as one gets older, our old brain cells slow down/die; one of the ways of retarding that process is to learn another language – old dogs apparently can learn new tricks!
  2. My wife Michelle and I recently moved to KZN; it makes sense therefore if I was to learn a new language that isiZulu should be the one.
  3. I believe that one of the ways to bridge the racism gap in SA is to learn ‘the other’ person’s language – it not only shows enormous respect to the recipient, but also commands it.

So I did some internet research (yep even I can) and found an excellent qualified Zulu teacher called Bryan; he has moved from KZN to Vietnam of all places (the joys of ZOOM)! He is also fluent in Afrikaans, French and Spanish and is currently learning Vietnamese while teaching English there. Most impressive!

My question to him was “How have you learnt so many languages and yet you are not even 40?” Bryan’s methodology (and what he uses/employs with me) he explained, is called Comprehensive Input (CI) – and I quote:

“Comprehensible Input is meaningful, compelling interaction in the target language which is the KEY to acquisition. It’s the way language gets language into heads, and stays there so that eventually it will be used it to communicate.”

Simply put CI means: dedicated and regular hours to ‘hearing’ – Bryan has given me many links to Zulu movies, narrated stories with pictures; to ‘reading’ – I buy the local Zulu Newspaper once a month plus Bryan sends me more reading; to ‘speaking’ – wherever possible I speak to Zulu folk e.g. at the garage, at the shops, with the gardener, with security guards… explaining that I am learning. Everyone helps!

What joy – not the old classroom method of laborious grammar classes, although some grammar has to be explained during ‘class’ time with Bryan.


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