Professor Rosalie Finlayson, with an impressive and rather intimidating resume under her belt, addressed WIZO’s Women in Touch, Pretoria lunch group on Monday. The topic: Understanding Cultural Differences. Her eloquent, dynamic AND entertaining presentation was warmly received by her audience. Since 1984, Rosalie held the position of full Professor – Head of Xhosa in the Department of African Languages at UNISA and a fluent speaker of 9 of our 11 official languages of Southern Africa . She has recently retired and is enjoying it immensely.
Language and culture are inexplicably intertwined. When language dies, culture dies. To manage diversity and to communicate effectively becomes ever more important in the rapidly changing South Africa. There is too much that is misunderstood. This arises from the intercultural misinterpretation of traditions and customs. Behaviour and lack of respect for other cultures is bound to occur. We should educate ourselves in understanding behavioural forms of respect in other groups/cultures. Verbal and non-verbal communication between the groups is of paramount importance. Appreciating the use of language and protocol, as well as greetings, respect, manners, and time will make for good and effective communication between the cultures.
Rosalie, reminded us that time is money and respect in all ‘languages’ and we need to negotiate the value and importance of time. It’s up to each one of us to show a willingness to communicate and extend trust across the cultural divide.