This blog is about my experiences of the language that I grew up with, that formed itself alongside the English of my mother as my father-tongue: the language of heaven, isiZulu.

Here is where youโ€™ll find my reflections on being a bilingual white man in South Africa, as I move between translating, teaching, interacting and working in isiZulu.


34 thoughts on “About

      1. At the moment not, but it may come in handy one day. I’m in matric and we’ve had different teachers every year (some awful). We’re lucky to have a really good one this year. My brother might soon.

        Are you currently teaching?


      2. I travel around teaching at the moment. I’m sorry to hear about your teachers – many of the high school students I tutor have similar problems, and I’m not yet sure how to deal with it.


      3. Hopefully the situation will improve over the next few years. I’m glad I stumbled upon your blog. Definitely gonna keep an eye on it: really useful posts. Thanks so much, and keep it up! ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚


      4. Will do! Your posts give a broader image of the language, and it will help me in the long run. Nice that you’re interactive as well! ๐Ÿ™‚


      1. Ngiyaxolisa bandla ukungaphenduli Skhova bengicabanga ukuthi ngizothola I answer ku Twitter. Ngihlala e Benoni ngingathokoza uma unangicebisa


  1. I just wanted to say that your blog is amazing – not only in content but also in the style and tone of your writing….best blog I have seen in a long time. I am not Zulu and would never profess to speak the language with any degree of finesse but reading through your blogs stirs up feelings of pride and awe in the beauty and diversity of our African cultures…


  2. Hi White Zulu,
    I just moved to Joburg and am interested in learning isiZulu–do you recommend any conversational language courses here–preferably informal classes that are less than 5000R?


  3. What is the difference between omhlophe and amhlophe and okumhlophe? Which one is the correct:
    1) okumhlophe isangoma
    2) omhlophe isangoma
    3) amhlophe isangoma


    1. Sawubona
      each of the words you’ve mentioned are linking the relative “-mhlophe” to a specific noun. Okumhlophe links it to an uku- noun, omhlophe links to an umu- noun, and amhlophe links to an ama- noun. Therefore none of your options are correct. The correct concord relating to isangoma would be esi-, and the phrase would be isangoma esimhlophe (the word order also matters, as descriptive words usually follow the noun in isiZulu.
      I hope this helps. Sorry for taking so long to reply.


  4. Ngiyabonga
    Interesting. I have heard several versions and I am wondering what is the correct. This is what I heard: “esha makhlophe isangome”, but I also heard these versions: “eskama hlophe isangoma” and “ikhaya amhlophe isangoma”
    I am afraid that these are some phonetic transcriptions and not the real isiZulu words. Can you tell me the correct phrase for “white witch doctor” (male witch doctor of course)?


  5. Hi there ๐Ÿ™‚ Great blog you’ve got here. I’m in Joburg and would love to improve my knowledge of the Zulu language and also my Zulu reading and writing skills? I’ve seen that you host lessons? can you please tell me more, i would love to be a part it all. And also, how much do you charge?


  6. Hey Mr Mack, stumbled upon your blog while procrastinating doing my homework… We are missing you!! It’s so quiet when you are not at school, & the classroom looks so cold & empty.. Hope you are having a great time, & you must visit soon! ๐Ÿ™‚ we all love you lots!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Samira! I am missing you too. I feel sad when I think of the classroom.I am certainly keeping busy, and the work is very rewarding. I will definitely visit soon. I love you all too. A whole lot.


  7. Sawubona,
    Ngicela ungixhumanise nongangisiza ukufundisa abantwana bami isiZulu. Basezigabeni eziphansi (omunye usanda kuqala esikolweni). Ingani ligotshwa lisemanzi?


    1. Phingoshe! Nomndayi kaSingila!

      Sawubona dadewethu – I wrote something on the meaning of this proverb here (https://whitezulu.wordpress.com/2015/01/24/a-birds-kidney-izaga-proverbs-pt-2/), but I can give you a short explanation:

      literally: the stomach of a traveler is as big as a bird’s kidney.
      figuratively: be kind to travellers and hospitable to strangers, because a traveller doesn’t ever eat you out of house and home – a bird’s kidney is very small indeed, and so doesn’t need much filling.

      There are similar other proverbs: e.g. inkom’ehambayo ayiqedi tshani (the traveling cow does not finish the grass).


  8. Dear WZ,

    Is it true that umlungu is a derogatory word that means “white scum”? If so, what is an acceptable term for a white person, perhaps “isemhlophe”?


    1. Hey Bullfrog! Your name would be Xoxo ngesiZulu.
      In my experience, it can be used in a derogatory way, but as far as I know that’s not the meaning. It’s more to do with colour patterns, etymologically. However it does have the connotation of “boss”


      1. Thanks for the quick response WZ!

        I like the onomatopoeia in the word xoxo! So if I understand you correctly the ngesizulu part identifies the species as bull frog? I would have imagined that to be tree frog or something similar just because I always relate the word Zulu to the heavens or up high?

        Anyhow, thanks for answering my question and for sharing your valuable knowledge!


  9. Sawubona Mzulu Omhlophe
    NginguCraig, mlungu waseKapa. Bengifuna ukukubingelela nokubonga. Ngithemba ukuthi sizohlangana ngolunye usuku maduzane! Uyangi-inspayirisha! ๐Ÿ˜‰ Siyabonga kakhulu mnumzane


  10. Sawubona umnunzane Mackenzie,

    Unjani? Igama lami ngu-Carl futhi ngivela eThekwini kodwa ngihlala phesheya manje futhi ngizobuyela eMzansi at the end of this year.:) hopefully forever! Ngingekhulume isiZulu kakhulu kodwa ngiyabuyisa ukufunda.

    I have a few songs ngesiZulu (futhi ngesiXhosa) that I want to learn…I have a few mothertongue isiZulu friends eThekwini kodwa they don’t have time to help out. Life ;). Was searching on internet and found your blog โ€“ย which is really great by the way โ€“ย and thought you might be interested in listening to a few songs I have ngesiZulu and writing the lyrics as well as translating them in english. Would you be keen? If so, let me know and we can look and prices and all the rest.





    1. Sawubona Carl
      Ngiyaxolisa ngokuthatha isikhathi eside kangaka – Iโ€™d be happy to do so. You can email me the length of the songs and I can quote you for that.



  11. Sawubona umnunzane Mackenzie,

    Unjani wena ? I just wanted to know if you saw my last comment demanding your email address?

    Ngiyabonga kakhulu,




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