Mocambique has at least 40 different language groups and the local language here in Vilanculos is Xitswa (chitswa). It’s not a written language so whenever you ask how something is spelled people just shake their heads, not knowing. You get people who speak Xitswa, Portuguese and a bit of English and you get people who speak Xitswa and Portuguese. And you get people who only speak Xitswa. So if you travel to Mocambique as a visitor, English will work well in most situations but knowing a few basic Portuguese phrases can be good. But if you come here to live and work, Portuguese is necessary and also learning Xitswa (or the language of the region you’re based in) will open even more doors to the community.
Brian’s dad Dave and brother in law Kurt both speak the Shangaan language of south eastern Zimbabwe and it’s very similar to Xitswa so when they moved here they quickly became fluent in the local language.
And now it’s my turn. Except it’s quite confusing trying to pick up words when the family chats because you never know what language you’re hearing. English is mixed with words in Xitswa, Shangaan, Portuguese, Shona and Chilapalapa, which is a language made out of many languages that came about when workers came from all over to work in the mines of South Africa.
Here’s the language lesson Kurt held for me the other day – join me in learning some Xitswa!
How to greet somebody
B: Gichile. Movuquile?
A: Uvuquile, ahati mwinau?
What you’re actually saying is:
A: How’s it going.
B: How’s it going. Have you awoken?
A: I have awoken, how about you?
B: I too have awoken.