top of page

The Power of Language

Hello Friends, I hope you’ve had a stunning weekend and managed to get time in the water.

I wanted to speak about the power of language, its power to connect, and the power is has to exclude. The power it has to create belonging, assume itself authority and its ability to police.

I remember not so long ago, here in Sodwana, with a group of divers that were then friends, and in the engagement with our instructor, who was Afrikaans, kept speaking Afrikaans, past my expressed discomfort and inability to understand, continued.

The secondary participation in space, once allowed in by the grace of the interpretation after the conversation has been concluded, and then, the Violence this is.

In another conversation, a human expressed the hardship she has with her mother tongue because from when she was little, her parents were instructed to not speak to her in Xhosa at home because English was the medium of communication at School and her best chance of becoming a 'good English speaker' would be for parents to not encourage the mother tongue. And so punishment followed the speaking of Xhosa between Xhosa girls at School and as she has grown, walking back to her mother tongue has been its journey when it had been punished for as long as she could remember.

The power to strip identity, tradition, connection with a people, while preserving its own.

I remember my corporate days, how meetings would be held in English and somewhere along the way, this very same Afrikaans would creep into the room, and just like that, the non speakings would be excluded.

Mandela’s English as a business language has always been tricky in undiverse spaces and generally, the higher you go. And so I resolved to speak Zulu with my colleagues in the same meetings to confer, because why tire self in the tumbles of English when it’s not your mother tongue either. My Director in her upset, would angrily say ‘that isn’t allowed here’, what isn’t I’d ask, that language she would say, and I’d respond, but I thought English was the business language, and so she would huff, apologize, and do it again.

As this continued I would sometimes pack my bags in preparation to leave the meeting assuming the meeting was over if the speak was now between some and not all.

Preferential Treatment of those that speak the language of Power, ease of access to the seat at the table, a Privileged existence and prioritized comfort.

I’ve been tired a while.

And yet, when the same happens facing indigenous languages, is upset, suspicion, explaining and possible trouble for the participants reporting back to the Power structure.


… and marked trouble makers.

Not resentment of the language, but of the loud power it is, to exclude, preserve the old and current, empower the privileged within that Power group and and then seek discomfort for all others but itself.

Perhaps the language thing would be null if the indigenous speak ended at the displease except, like the power of racism, the consequence of the displeased is that Power has an ability to also strip income sources in punishment because it is Power; financial and otherwise, while affording the same to the tongue closest in proximity to itself.

In South Africa, the Diving industry is largely this, and this remains one of the biggest challenges in equality and equity of experience.

A thought piece



My guest this week was an amazing human named Dr Juliet Karisa from Kenya, read more about her below, listen here.

Meet #DDSL2021 Fellow Dr Juliet Furaha Karisa!

"As a Kenyan Marine Ecologist and conservationist, I’ve completed my PhD study aimed at providing climate resilient coral reefs. It's frustrating that my work which involves the conservation practices of coral reef restoration is stuck in scientific publications and conference proceedings and mostly inaccessible to the general public.

In addition, underwater ecosystems are uniquely fascinating yet very few people can access and relate to these habitats. It is my passion to effectively take the science that I do to the people for greater impact in conservation".

Caption from @newfcommunity 💙@furaha_ke

Listen here

A stunner week all,


247 views1 comment

Recent Posts

See All

1 Kommentar

Your ability to simplify complex concepts is commendable. This post has made it easier for me to understand the topic.

fireboy and watergirl

Gefällt mir
bottom of page