Mind Your Language
Big Issue|Issue 294
Shadrack Ncele, an undergraduate law student, articulates his inner conflict and double consciousness as a young man born into isiXhosa culture who is now immersed in the English language.
Shadrack Ncele

Freedom – the right to act, think and speak as one wants. I consider myself to be a social creature that is linked to society with other human beings. My goal in this world is to seek common humanity, because no man is an island. Thus, my freedom is not yet fully attained without the empowerment and upliftment of the millions of Africans languishing in poverty.

Moreover, the African continent consists of approximately 56 countries and has more than 1 000 languages. For instance, Nigeria alone has more than 500, and it’s unlikely that you will find someone who speaks all these languages. Therefore, as a writer, I choose to utilise my freedom of expression in English because of its wider audience.

My name is Shadrack Ncele, I’m a 21-year-old black male South African “born-free” from Langa township, currently in pursuit of a BA Law degree at the University of Cape Town. In this piece, I ought to express to the reader how my freedom of expression is more inclined in my colonial master’s mother tongue rather than my own.

As a citizen embedded in a postcolonial context, this inclination has enabled me to climb the hierarchical ladder of education. However, as I climbed up this ladder, I lost a part of me because language is a culture, and I find myself practising the same culture that annihilated the indigenous peoples of my beloved continent – Africa. Hence, at times, I feel like my freedom is a fallacy and I am just an indoctrinated shell.

LOST IN TRANSLATION

Education is a pivotal factor in my life, and I have been very fortunate to have experienced what it’s like to attend both IsiXhosa and English medium schools (I attended isiXhosa medium schools in Langa from pre-school to Grade 1). However, during my short-lived experience at Thembani Primary School, an incident occurred, which led to my enrolment at an English medium school – St Mary’s Primary School in Gardens.

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