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ЮАР
22 July

SAR Protects the "Click" Languages

SAR Protects the "Click" Languages

If you suddenly found yourself in the heart of the Kalahari Desert, your attention would be surely drawn by strange sounds. Perhaps, these are insects chirring or birds singing? But amidst continuous clicking, you can recognize the sounds of the human speech. So, who is speaking with us after all?

Actually, the "clicking" sounds is one of the brightest features of the Khoisan group of languages. Today, they remain only in the desert regions of the South African Republic, Botswana, and Namibia. Khoisan tribes, Khoikhois and Sans, inhabit these territories. They are also known as Hottentots and Bushmen. Nowadays, representatives of these ethnic groups are the only carriers of the click languages.

In Soviet times, "The Moscow Radio" broadcasted in 11 African languages. Yulia Suetina who worked at a radio station as a translator, remembers a funny story. A film containing an interview on the Zulu language was damaged by mistake. Editors cut out all clicking sounds from it. Editors thought that clicks appeared as a result of defect of a recorder. Because of this error, they had to record the interview again.

Representatives of the Khoisan tribes are considered to be the aboriginals of South Africa. They inhabited these territories even before the first Europeans arrived on the Cape peninsula. Unfortunately, the size of Khoikhoi and San population decreases every year. It leads to the disappearance of their unique language and culture.

The Khoisan languages, however, have had a considerable impact on larger South African languages. Zulu, Xhosa, Southern and Northern Sotho have borrowed from them not only a lot of words, but also some "clicking sounds".

A 84-year-old lady, the SAR resident Katrina Esau, is one of three speakers of a Khoisan language named Tuu. She teaches its difficult alphabet to the South African schoolchildren in a small school in the city of Upington. It consists of 112 sounds, 45 of which are clicking.

Katrina seeks to pass as much knowledge as possible to the younger generation, in order to prevent the language from disappearing. Khoisan languages are the historical and national heritage of South Africa.

Today, SAR takes many efforts to carefully study and record the Khoisan languages.

Today these rare, but very impressive clicks can be heard on television and radio. They sound even in some movies.


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