Young author, Refiloe Moahloli takes a simple but imperative step with her book “How Many Ways Can You Say Hello?” [Penguin Random House SA], which teaches South African kids to greet in all eleven official languages.
By: Thanduxolo “Thandz” Buti
We are living in times where many are more fluent in English than their mother tongue. Sadly, this has resulted in the kids not knowing their mother tongues while being morphed into a world that neglects their cultures. Refiloe saw this in her nieces and was instantly inspired to create a solution, she decided to write her book “How Many Ways Can You Say Hello?”.
“I wanted my nieces to learn to have pride in their mother tongue and also to be proud and share it with other kids.
We have so many languages and this is a way to encourage kids to learn one another’s languages – it starts with a simple “Hello,” she explains.
The book has garnered acclaimed and with just one month on the shelves, it is going for a third reprint. According to the author this is proof that the book is smoothing the ground for everyone to learn local languages.
“Learning a new language can be quite daunting, even for us adults, and approaching it with a simple word like “Hello” makes it exciting. I believe in life we always have to start small before we can get somewhere,” she says.
“How Many Ways Can You Say Hello” marks a successful introduction into the literary world for the Mthatha-born writer. Even though the book may target children, Refiloe states that she is “not a children’s author – I am simply a writer.”
The book also saw the author’s dream come true. She boasts that she had legendary children’s author Gcina Mhlophe pen the foreword to “How Many Ways to Can You Say Hello?”.
“You know there are moments that make you realise that dreams do come true and when I approached her to write the foreword and she agreed was that moment for me,” she shares with pride.
Refiloe also got the privilege of meeting Gcina at the Last year’s Bantu Book Festival, a moment she reveres. She admits to being star-struck and feeling like a child again while watching the legendary storyteller performing at the Festival.
The thing about impact is that does not even have to be on a large scale. It can be one or two people – what’s important is that you are able to make a change in someone’s life.
“She was super proud and she was very insistent on the fact that “We need more writers”. She was very encouraging and that really moved me,” she gushes.
Despite a successful entry into the world of literature, Refiloe had to overcome her fears about the industry. The author studied Information Systems at Wits University and then proceeded to join the world of telecommunications. After years of struggling to balance working full-time and writing, she bravely decided to fully embrace being a writer.
The author describes herself as an author that exudes positivity. “I am quite a cheerful person and so the stories I write have quite a cheerful and positive element in them, which is what I also look for in the books that I read,” she adds.
She hopes to be an author that has startling impact on her readers.
“The thing about impact is that does not even have to be on a large scale. It can be one or two people – what’s important is that you are able to make a change in someone’s life, then it becomes worthwhile.
I am a huge Harry Potter fan and those books had a huge impact on me as a child and even now as an adult. I want to write books that have that kind of impact that can lift someone up.”
With all the racial adversity the country is facing, Refiloe hopes that her book can be part of the process of uniting the country. “Our situation is very complex but starting small, learning how to say “Hello”, perhaps that’s a start. We have a lot of work to do but atleast we can say we doing something,” she explains.
Refiloe is currently planning a nationwide school tour to promote “Hello”.
The book comes with a CD and is available at all leading bookstores.
All photos supplied by Refiloe