Speak to me.

on June 16, 2009 in Mocha Club, THIRTY with 14 comments by

200 languages are spoken by more than 1 million people worldwide.

I’m pretty sure I have a working knowledge of English. Sorta.

So that leaves 199 for me to learn. Starting with French.

And here is why.

I tend to overshare. Hence the reason I have this blog. Hence the reason I didn’t get any work done yesterday at Frothy Monkey and instead just caught up with friends that were there. Hence the reason I sent upwards of 50 emails last night. Because HELLO MY NAME IS ANNIE AND I DO NOT RUN OUT OF THINGS TO SAY.

And Cape Town seriously challenged that. Because I don’t know Xhosa. In fact, I’ll be honest, I didn’t even know there was a language named Xhosa until I was preparing for this trip.

Once we got there, I got to hang out with some seriously cute kids. Like these dudes (from L to R: Eric, Logan, Ayanda, me, and Patrick).


Saturday afternoon of our kids camp, I watched Eric as he walked into the dining hall, sat down, and laid his head on the table. I walked over and put my hand on his back- just to say hey. He began to shake, weeping. If you are new to these here blog parts, you may not know that I used to be a teacher- in fact, 4th/5th grade boys were always my favs. So this moment seriously broke my heart.

I tried to ask him what was wrong. But his English was so limited; my Xhosa, surprisingly, also limited. So instead of helping this sweet dude, I had to get Wonga, one of the local college guys, to come take care of it. It ended up being fine, but the Wanna-be-a-Mama in me hated that I was unable to fix the situation myself.

The children’s church teachers, lovingly called “The Mamas”, helped in the kitchen a lot. kitchenBecause I am a self-professed foodie, I thought it would be awesome to hang with them and learn from them as they cooked. I don’t know how much you know about apartheid [probably more than me], but it still affects the people of South Africa- especially (and probably only) the adults. And I could feel it.

I wanted so badly to show them how much I respected them, tell them that white girl was in the kitchen to learn, not to hover. [I don’t know…. I’m trying to explain all this to you without ruffling any racial feathers. How do I say this?] I guess I just wanted to serve WITH them. And there were walls between us- not so much language, but deeper stuff. We had bonded pretty well by Sunday morning, but I would have given anything to show up and be able to ask questions about their recipes, ask how I could help, and communicate love and respect to them in their own language. I felt like I was unable to minister to the women as deeply as I wanted because I didn’t know Xhosa.

And I don’t want that to ever happen again.

Five days after leaving Cape Town, this is one of a short list of things I can identify from the trip that has changed me. [I’m sure more are to come… just give me some more time.]

So I’m starting with French. It seems useful and fun and I love crepes. [So, a very scientific decision, obviously.] I wish I could learn Xhosa, and maybe one day I will. But I really have no clue when I’ll get back to Cape Town, and a very small population speaks that language. So French makes more sense.

But Xhosa is on my list. Because even if just a few people worldwide speak it, the ones that do are pretty important to me now.


  1. posted on Jun 16, 2009 at 7:06 AM  |  reply

    Very inspiring! Hope French learning goes well. I read the other day that most of our communication (like 80% or something) comes through our body language and actions, so even if you couldn’t verbally communicate with people in SA I’m sure you showed them love in other ways.

  2. posted on Jun 16, 2009 at 7:13 AM  |  reply

    I chose Spanish in high school thinking, “When would I ever use French?” Then I married a Nigerien and I wish desperately I knew anything in French! I speak to our babysitter in limited English and LOTS of hand gestures, having to rely on Ismael to communicate anything big. It’s difficult. Xhosa strikes me as a very difficult language to learn – the click sounds are so foreign to us. Swahili might be a good option too – I’ve found that the pronunciation of the few words I’ve learned is very intuitive if you know the pronunciation of vowels in Spanish – it’s very similar. Good luck!

  3. posted on Jun 16, 2009 at 7:48 AM  |  reply

    I hope French goes great for you – I love hearing about your trip . . . I cant wait to keep hearing about everything you learned 🙂
    4th-5th grade boys are my favorites too . . . I dont know what it is – but I love them!

  4. posted on Jun 16, 2009 at 7:49 AM  |  reply

    wait though, not in a weird way. that came out creepy

  5. posted on Jun 16, 2009 at 8:11 AM  |  reply

    Hi! I’m new to your blog, but just wanted to let you know that I majored in French in college, so if I can do anything to help you, I’d be happy to lend a hand. It’s been nearly 15 years since I spoke French regularly, but I can muddle my through if I need to.

    I love what I have read of your blog so far, and your trip to South Africa sounds really exciting. I’ll be checking back! 🙂

  6. Miles Adams
    posted on Jun 16, 2009 at 8:55 AM  |  reply

    Je suis Annie! (I am Annie) That’s my contribution to your learning. Blessings to you my friend.

  7. posted on Jun 16, 2009 at 8:59 AM  |  reply

    Hey Annie…

    Don’t think we’ve met but we have TONS of mutual friends. I love your blog and I especially love your heart for Africa and for understanding (or at least being sensitive to) apartheid.

    I used to work for African Leadership when Barrett was just getting Mocha Club off the ground… glad to see things have progressed!

    Keep keepin’ it alive and in front of people. Change CAN happen…

    Thanks girl.. Deb

  8. posted on Jun 16, 2009 at 10:54 AM  |  reply

    Your trip sounds amazing! Hope it was wonderful! Xhosa sounds really hard…Serbian was really hard to try to learn, too from my trip…Good luck with French!
    You’re awesome!
    April :o)

  9. posted on Jun 16, 2009 at 1:28 PM  |  reply

    Annie, you may “only” know English, but you use it beautifully. I never would have thought about this particular issue coming from a mission trip to Africa – thank you for explaining it to us!

    I took French in high school and college. I loved it, but wow, there are a lot of tenses that I didn’t even know existed. With that said, though, I believe learning French improved my English, too. So – you might find that as you learn more languages (or even as you learn this second one), it improves your others.

  10. Travis
    posted on Jun 16, 2009 at 5:39 PM  |  reply

    I need to learn some form of french. I’m pretty sure I’m going to Haiti sometime this Fall/Winter. Let me know what avenues you will be taking to learn the language. I need to get some French or Creole in my cranium ASAP. Hopefully I’ll see you soon up in the Mocha Club. Hollerback,

  11. posted on Jun 16, 2009 at 9:39 PM  |  reply

    French sounds like a perfect beginning! It’s so good to hear about your trip… thanks for sharing this with all of us, and letting us walk through a bit of this with you!

  12. Linda
    posted on Jun 17, 2009 at 3:56 AM  |  reply

    Love your heart, love your determination and as always, love your witty way with the written word!

  13. E$
    posted on Jun 17, 2009 at 11:40 AM  |  reply

    bon chance mon amie : ]

  14. posted on Jun 18, 2009 at 1:20 AM  |  reply

    good to have you back. love to hear your heart. blessings.

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