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Our names are our identity tags from the time we are born till the day we die. (And often before we’re born, when our parents discuss what to call us, and long after death, if we’ve been successful in leaving some level of legacy.)

Names are deeply personal. It’s so very important to get names right.

You might wonder why I’ve chosen this topic under the heading of “learning”. Simply because I’m African, and I’m English-speaking by birth, and most of my compatriots aren’t. Many of my fellow South Africans have names that I find it difficult to pronounce – the Nguni languages contain the c, x and q clicks that are unfamiliar to my tongue and palate. But it is nevertheless essential that I learn to say these sounds. I might never read or speak the languages (although I hope I will), but I most certainly will meet people to whom I should show the respect of saying their names correctly.

I took myself off to isiXhosa lessons a few years back, and so I’ve learnt to say the clicks. Getting my tongue around the complexities like “gq” or “gc” or “th” versus “t” is a skill that has thusfar eluded me, but won’t forever. I learnt the vowel sounds too – always the same, no matter their context, for which I’m grateful! I’m so pleased that I can at least get most names RIGHT, that I can show the requisite respect.

If you’re English or Afrikaans speaking (or even Sotho or another indigenous language that doesn’t have clicks), and you don’t yet have the clicks and vowels mastered, think about learning to do so.