Sunday, May 31, 2015


Amacimbi means caterpillars in the Ndebele language. We say "mopane worms" in English. Amacimbi are not grown commercially, but gathered naturally when they appear from time to time in groves of mopane trees.

Amacimbi make a favorite tasty treat for African people, and an acquired taste for the rest of us.

But I am writing about the language today. The "c" in amacimbi is a click sound. Like a Tsk-sound made without breath, with your tongue right behind your upper teeth.  Ndebele has a 6 or 7 click sounds which are difficult for learners to pronounce.  I will tell you where the click sounds come from in another post.

Ndebele is spoken in the southern region of Zimbabwe. It is considered to be a dialect of Zulu, or a related language,. Either way Zulu speakers and Ndebele speaker can understand each other.

You remember Shaka Zulu, the terrible African warrior chief. He had a top lieutenant named Mzilikazi and they fought many battles together, but after a time they had an argument, and Shaka Zulu said he was going to kill Mzilikazi with his spear.

Shaka Zulu was a great killer, as you all know, so Mzilikazi ran for his life and his regiment ran away with him. They ran all the way to Zimbabwe, far from Shaka Zulu's army.

Mzilikazi conquered or took over the local people in southern Zimbabwe and founded his own tribe -- the Ndebele people.

And that is why the people of southern Zimbabwe speak Ndebele today.

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