Monday, March 12, 2012

A Misplaced Southerner

I am what you might call a misplaced Southerner. Although I do still live in the south, South Africa that is, I find it has very little in common with the South, with a captial "S".

Where I come from "pie" means sweet fruity goodness while in South Africa pie means something salty with meat in it.

We do share a love for corn flour. But when I think of corn flour, I think cornbread, corn muffins, and corn dogs while South Africans think pap (a mealy, doughy, mashed potato-like dish which I cannot stomach).

I still think football means tailgates and age-old rivalries, while South Africans think football is vuvuzelas and soccer balls.

While tea here means a hot drink with milk and honey, tea for me means an ice cold pitcher of sugary elixir.

Whenever I have to refer to someone as "colored", a normal term of identification in South Africa, I still lower my voice and cringe.

I write handwritten thank you's to people with no permanent address just because that’s how my mama taught me.

I have frequently bought the store out of pecans and tried to explain to a confused South African what Crisco is and why I so desperately need some.

And I may be the only ESL teacher whose students believe that “ya’ll” (read this) is an actual word in the dictionary – or at least should be.

Despite all this, I love South Africa and after almost four years here, I truly consider it my "home". And slowly even my English has sort of morphed into an accent-less brand of the language that I like to call "Continental." But recently I have been starkly reminded of my Southern roots in my attempts to learn Afrikaans.

Ever since I've been in South Africa, people have told me that Afrikaans is one of the easiest languages in the world to learn, and they're right. The grammar is simple, basic, straight-forward, unlike the confusing rules of English with the endless list of exceptions that make my students want to shoot me.

However Afrikaans is a Germanic language, somewhat close to dutch, which means it has a lot of guttural sounds and rolled "r"s - sounds which are completely foreign to us Americans. When a true South African speaks it, it comes off their tongue with a beautiful lilt, almost like a song. But somehow, no matter how desperately hard I try, mine always comes out sounding like a Southern hick with a hairball in her throat.

Oh well, I guess you can take the girl out of the South but you can't take the South out of the girl.

1 comment:

Grace said...

AAAh Emily.. how i understand this post so completely!

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