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South African Children’s Book ‘!Qhoi nla Tjhoi’ Hopes to Revive a Dying Ancient Language

Cultural preservation is alive and well in South Africa thanks to people like Katrina Esau. An 88 year-old writer from the Khoi San people has written a new book in the nearly extinct N/uu language. A children’s book, !Qhoi nla Tjhoi translates into the Tortoise and the Ostrich, and provides a written record of the N/uu language and the type of story traditionally perpetuated through oral storytelling. Khoi-San languages have been described some of the “critically endangered” languages around the world. Furthermore, the Khoi-San were marked as illiterate by the Dutch colonisers. Esau’s book breaks this myth as N/uu is written in its own style and format, characterised by numerous distinct clicks which influenced Nguni languages such as Xhosa and Zulu. Ostritch and Tortoise will also be translated into SeTswana, IsiZulu, IsiXhosa and the Nama language spoken mostly in Namibia.