24 Sep 2020
Blitzbok and Sharks wing MULLER DU PLESSIS explains how he ended up speaking fluent Sotho before Afrikaans.
My family comes from the town Reitz in the Free State. My grandparents have a farm there, which is where I spent most of my years growing up.
My parents stayed in town, but I spent 80% of my time on the farm where I was raised by the local Sotho people. They kept on speaking the language to me, which is how I learned it.
When I reached the age where I could speak fluently – six or seven – I spoke Sotho because I had spent so much time with Sotho people. The language just came naturally to me.
When I went to primary school, they had to teach me Afrikaans! While I would speak Afrikaans to my parents, it was like a second language for me – like English is now. You know it but your tenses aren’t great! Most of my friends at school ended up being Sotho-speaking kids.
Funnily enough, my older brother JP can’t speak more than two words of Sotho, because he was hardly ever on the farm and stayed in town with my parents, before going to boarding school at Paul Roos in Stellenbosch. He often says he wishes he could have learned the language too.
I can still speak fluent Sotho today. I don’t get to speak it much in the Western Cape, where Xhosa is a common language, but I do when I go to Joburg or the Free State. I also still stay in touch with the Sotho people in Reitz and phone them regularly to ensure I don’t lose the language.
There aren’t any Sotho speakers at the Sharks, but I spoke it with Seabelo Senatla, who is also from the Free State, when we were together at the sevens.
For me, it’s an honour to speak Sotho because you learn so much from other cultures and it shows you are interested in their culture. It was a privilege for me to be part of the Sotho culture and experience it for many years.
I admire the Sotho people for how they stay together and help each other. They’re such great people and so passionate too.