Se Ke Seromamowa Sa Botswana

First Impressions

Radio Botswana, 1978
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Radio Botswana turned out to be situated in the old Prime Minister's residence - one of the few two-storey brick buildings around, with parquet flooring and extensive gardens which were by now sadly neglected. It was a bit scary to find that quality monitoring of the national radio station's transmissions was being done on a car radio loudspeaker and one of those amplifiers used in ice-cream vans - complete with chimes. It looked as if some serious technical training would be needed.

What Radio Botswana lacked in facilities, though, it made up in its staff - who were wonderful. Fortunately everyone spoke English and I made a valiant attempt to pick up Setswana as quickly as possible, something which stood me in good stead later on. I remember listening to conversations which seemed completely incomprehensible, except that they were punctuated every minute or so with words like "upside-down", because Setswana doesn't have such concepts.

Actually, had I realised it, I was really listening to about four languages at once - the Batswana seem to be as polyglot as the Dutch. The best example I know of this ability was the guy who subsequently became my closest colleague. When he joined me at Radio Botswana he was a graduate engineer under me; our careers progressed together and subsequently Phenyo Makgekgenene became Botswana's Director of Broadcasting and Information from the late 1980's until he retired at the end of October 2000. On travelling to Europe he says our languages have lots of words in common and they all sound the same - so he is the one who just "...shouts a bit louder..."! When he arrived in Britain in the late '60's to complete his formal education, he decided that no-one would be able to pronounce his name, so he picked a nice easy British one instead - Ted. For ever afterwards we received letters addressed to "Mr Edward Makgekgenene"...

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