ENTERTAINMENT

It's 2017. Can We Please Stop Making Fun Of People's English?

Honestly. The Papa Penny comments are not funny.

12/01/2017 15:56 SAST | Updated 13/01/2017 16:01 SAST
Mzansi Magic

Papa Penny is back in the limelight with his own reality TV show, "Papa Penny Ahee". Based on social media trends, it's clear many South Africans tuned in for the debut episode on Mzansi Magic Wednesday night.

The star, whose real name is Eric Nkovani, gives viewers a glimpse into his life as an entertainer, father, son, husband and as a ward councilor in Nkuri Sofasonke, Giyani.

According to The Daily Sun, Penny Penny got a reality show because people were attracted to his colourful personality when he was a judge on another Mzansi show, "Clash of the Choirs".

While a lot of people seemed to have enjoyed the Tsonga musician's show, the main conversation revolved around Penny Penny's command of the English language.

Of course, social media was abuzz with conversation about how silly it is that in 2017, we're still judging people based on how they speak English.

Seriously.

This basically sums up all the feelings we should have about this issue:

This is why decolonisation is so important. The idea that it is expected of black people to be able to fully communicate in English is an indication of just how much we value it as a social currency. If Papa Penny speaks fluent Xitsonga, no one cares because we don't see why this is of any merit. We place little worth in mother tongue and see it as inferior to English.

In 2017, black parents will still argue about whether it is more beneficial for their children to take Afrikaans as a second language at school rather than whichever African language is offered. Not only do we place European languages above our own, we continue to equate intelligence to speaking these foreign tongues. With that logic, a South African who speaks six South African languages, with no English or Afrikaans, is less intelligent than someone who speaks French or Mandarin.

English is NOT a thing. Travel to France, Spain, China and many other countries and try that "English is the universal language" bullsh*t you've been taught, and let us know how that works out for you. Not only are people speaking their mother tongues proudly, they are breaking their English with pride too because it really does not make a difference.

Beyond this, language transcends barriers through music. Ladysmith Black Mambazo and artists like Mafikizolo and Lira are huge around the world. Guess what they all have in common? Their songs are not in English. And guess what? Nobody cares; they still love it. Penny Penny's smash debut single "Shaka Bundu" was released in 1994. Then in 2013, Rolling Stone wrote this article about the song being reissued.

That we can speak English in the first place, while many of our white counterparts can only speak that one language should be lauded. Our shame should rest rather in our failure to speak, write and think in our own mother tongues. Papa Penny does not have to speak English. He is African. If anything, white South Africans should be speaking Xitsonga.

Language is about expression and being heard. This insistence on forcing people to speak English is part of a greater problem of black people appearing to be less intelligent than our white counterparts. People seldom stop to consider that while they can comfortably articulating themselves in their mother tongue, our people are forced to restructure their thoughts and feelings in a different language. It's no surprise that things get lost in translation.

We had this conversation last year when people made fun of Babes Wodumo's English. And we will continue to talk about it until we all understand that laughing at English errors is just not OK.