A well-traveled friend once told me that it's a good idea to get a few phrases down in the native language where ever you find yourself. Residents appreciate the effort you put in to learn some of their tongue. Start off by learning how to say hello, please, and thank you for the food.
In Setswana 'hello' is 'dumela' but it doesn't end there. One must inquire about the wife/husband, the children and whether they are well before the greeting is finished and we can move on to the part where I tell them that I don't speak Setswana.
One can learn a lot about a culture by its language. The people here have no word for 'thank you' and they use the same word for 'please' and 'I'm sorry.' (One of my friends that on occasion drinks too much, always wanted a word that means both 'thank you' and 'I'm sorry.') It's as if there's no reason to thank a person just because he behaved the way that he should have.
Once you get the basics down, you can move onto harder phrases. Or you can use your skills ninja style. Sit quietly. Realize when they are talking about you. Let them laugh. Then in a harsh tone tell the speaker to, "Kak in de millie!" There will be shocked silence followed by laughter because you told the jokester to go shit in the cornfield.
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