Every Wednesday at 7:30pm Duma FM, in collaboration with Medi Publishing, presents a program called Lobebe lwa setso. The program is presented by Mr. Donald Seberane together with Professor Otlogetswe during the Don at Night program. The idea behind the program is to provide a platform for the discussion of language matters, precisely matters in and on the Setswana language. The program has been running since September 2012. The program has dealt with a variety of matters, amongst these issues such as Setswana linguistic variation. On the topic of variation the program demonstrated the linguistic variability between different speakers of the Setswana language such as Setswana as spoken by Batswana in Botswana and those in South Africa or the variations which are found among those who belong to different tribal groups within and across different tribal and geographical borders. At a different time the program has dealt with speaker attitudes towards Setswana and elements that engender such attitudes. During the program it became apparent that since Setswana lacked both educational and economic value, many speakers, including students and parents, did not find anything attractive in studying the language. Many still found the ubiquitous English language to be more relevant and attractive to their educational and career advancement. While many speakers had an emotional attachment to the language, its value beyond the emotional faculties was merely ephemeral. The haunting question: “what can we do with Setswana?” lingered.
The larger part of the program towards the end of 2012 was devoted to assessing the lexicographic relevance of the Setswana monolingual dictionary: Tlhalosi ya Medi ya Setswana. Tlhalosi was launched on July 12th by Sir Ketumile Masire. The choice of Sir Ketumile Masire as the one to launch the dictionary was most appropriate since he is a delightful speaker of the Setswana language. He speaks the language with supreme beauty and confidence, a unique quality found amongst many Batswana of his age. Tlhalosi was later launched in Mafikeng on October 26th, 2012 at the North West University in Mahikeng at the invitation of the university rector Professor Dan Kgwadi. Lobebe lwa setso has run a number of quizzes for secondary school students. The quizzes tested students’ knowledge of words, idioms, proverbs and general knowledge. Unfortunately, the student quiz was not successful since students did not take part in large numbers. The quiz has since been opened to members of the general public and the results have been most interesting. It has become apparent that many Batswana are losing much of their lexical and idiomatic knowledge. Just as in the case of students, members of the public were also tested on their knowledge of words, idioms and proverbs as well as some general knowledge questions. For instance, callers were asked to define the following terms nyeula, tshikela, nyebu, motshweetshwee, kgogolamoko, sephai and kupa. On dialectal knowledge, the callers were asked to supply the meanings of the following South African terms: tshwaetsa, tokomane, serutwa, mokganni and mmuisi. The quiz also tested the knowledge of synonyms of the general Setswana vocabulary such as synonyms for the following words: ngakale, peretshitswana, sekaku, sekota, kgothokgotho, kwii, kgokelo, lekanyane and other terms. In general many callers displayed a poor knowledge of words and word variation across dialects. This was surprising since I had thought that many Batswana have a fairly strong understanding of varieties of the Setswana language. I was particularly taken aback by the poor appreciation of South African Setswana terminology which I thought was general grasped by Batswana since many are avid listeners of Motsweding FM which exposes them to the South African Setswana. I have always held the view that it is not in the best interest of Botswana to have her citizens listen to South African radio stations and watch much of South African television stations without the same happening in South Africa concerning Botswana media. What happens through such media is that there is a cultural transfer from South Africa to Botswana. The obvious challenge lies in the fact that there is no reciprocity. Many South Africans do not listen to Botswana radio stations nor do they watch the Botswana television. This largely means that the cultural transfer is largely unidirectional. I was however pleasantly surprised at the general knowledge of idioms and proverbs. It appears that many expect proverbs and idioms to be difficult and therefore make an effort to master them; while words are taken for granted and therefore poorly grasped. Let me give an example of some of the proverbs that the listeners were tested on: tshukudu golo gobe e go isiwa ke bana, lore lo ôjwa lo sa le metsi, kgomo e e maši ga e itsale, pitse e ole ka disale, mosadi tshwene o jewa mabogo, pala gabedi e sita pala gangwe, maru a se nang tladi malematsa and many others. The idioms included: go ntsha mosi ka sekhurumelo, go rwala masigo ka tlhogo, go naya motho letsogo, go ya moribe, go ya lojwa, go apeela thukhwi le mala, go bipa mpa ka mabele, go gora kika, go iteela kobo moroko, go nkgisana magwafa, go paralatsa menwana and many others. Many of the callers performed fairly well on their knowledge of idioms and proverbs, something which was a pleasant surprise. Having said that, during the quiz I was shocked by a student who said that the idiom go ya lojwa means to go to work. I had thought the idiom, which means to go away for a long time, was fairly common and would pose no problem for listeners, but I was wrong.
The program Lobebe lwa setso has attracted many listeners. It has rekindled in many listeners pride in their language. It has become educational and highly entertaining. It is still fairly too early to assess its impact and contribution to the Setswana language and culture. However, it appears that it might be a program which in the long term will resuscitate pride in the Setswana language and culture.