South Africa: the Nluu language, an endangered heritage

The only person speaking Nluu, Katrina Esau fights to maintain the existence of her native language, which almost disappeared during the colonization of South Africa by the Dutch.

Clicks made with the language that make sense. With nearly 112 sounds and 45 clicks, all different from each other, the click language is unique. Katrina Esau, a South African, is the last known person to speak the language fluently. Its people, the San, were persecuted by settlers and expelled from their territory. Katrina now lives in a township, with her family who do not know her native language. All are followers of Afrikaans, imposed by the Dutch colonists. “Where I worked, I was forbidden to speak my language. I was very unhappy”, explains Katrina Esau.

With the help of her granddaughter Claudia, Katrina Esau opened a school to enable new generations to save the Nluu language, which is on the verge of extinction. But which is not easy to master for young children. This requires quite a lot of training, especially for the clicks of the tongue. A manual has also been created, with the help of researchers, in order to avoid the total disappearance of this language. “It’s an ancient language, but we can bring it into modern life”, explains Claudia Snyman, granddaughter of Katrina Esau. A fight that impresses language specialists.

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