English only tells you what is?



Over the past couple of weeks, we have been working with our partners in South Africa to deliver training and an online hackathon event for YouthBanks across the country.

We have witnessed some amazing things - young people from a range of local community venues gained access and logging onto Zoom meetings. Why? To listen and watch our inputs, our ideas, methodologies… all the knowledge we’ve gained so far. Of course, our partners from South Africa (known for having more than a few official languages), organized translations of all our teachings. In our case, English was translated into Xhosa and Afrikaans.

I don`t know if you can imagine what it looks like when young people are gathered in groups around laptops, working on challenges and capturing their ideas and prototypes with photographs and video recordings on mobile phones. And all this is happening in South Africa, did I mention? And Zoom is there too, in South Africa!


During a short pause in the first morning’s training,I just wanted to quickly check with the Xhosa interpreter if everything was ok.

I asked her - Am I speaking too quickly, should I slow down?

The answer was - Yes! You should slow down!

But what she actually said was - IsiXhosa is a poetic language, English tells you what is, IsiXhosa tells you how it feels - and that takes more words!


And there, on Zoom in South Africa, her answer really made me stop and think…


Everything that we are doing, that YouthBank is doing, it’s all about young people taking control and creating the changes they want to see. We see our impact in the stories that young people and their YouthBanks create!


And we need to work hard to ensure that those stories go beyond what is. What is, is often a consequence of how things feel, the things we don’t say, the things we can’t say, the things that no one talks about. If we want to make a sustainable change to what is, we need to take the time to understand what makes it so. To find the answers we must be brave enough to explore the emotions that constrain our aspirations!


The answer I got was more than an answer. It came as a perfect reminder that YouthBank training must continue to support young people to face their fears, overcome their challenges and create the changes they want to see.


Peter Little




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