A Language Lesson

It has been a great week (read:  tiring) with plenty of interesting clients.  After a good chat with a client’s husband (Hi-C was seeing the wife so the husband and I had some chai) two things happened:  he told me that I’m close to the spirit of god and invited us both out to their farm where they grow coffee!  Let’s recap:  some super christian man said I’m closer to the spirit of god than he is.  Yikes.  Perhaps he is very sweet but not a very good judge of spirity-ness.  And – hecks yes we want to go to a coffee plantation thing.  Unfortunately we are off to Mombasa (the coast) on Saturday morning but we exchanged numbers so it might still happen when we return to Nairobi.

Since we’ll be off to Mombasa where people tend to speak more Kiswahili than English we had our first language lesson last night; a bit of a crash course in greetings and the verb “to be”.  To a native English speaker the language is complicated and just not intuitive.  But beautiful and interesting.  My favourite greeting so far is “shikamoo” = shee-kah-MOH-oh = “I touch your feet?”  to which the elder answers “marahaba”.  How cool is that? 

How else is it not intuitive?  Well, for starters, “si” is the way to negate (at least in present “to be”).  For someone who has studied Spanish for a long time this is confusing because “si” means yes*. 

Embarrassing language moment:  I couldn’t even break a word into syllables!  I was working with an adult client on speech and one technique is to break up the syllables by pacing (speaking more slowly) and emphasizing the sounds to be more easily understood.  I had the client teach me a few new kiswahili words and off we went.  Fundi = technician.  /foon-dee/  Syllables foon-dee.  Right?  Wrong.  The syllables are foo-ndi.  The /n/ goes with the /d/.  I did this multiple times with the client and didn’t realize until that night after doing some research on the sounds of kiswahili that I was way off.  At least we all had a good laugh the next day about my ineptitude.

Mimi ni Katie.
Mimi ni mcanada.
Mimi ni msichana.

I’m a person (in the first noun class) and I’m just one person so all of the nouns referring to me take on an /m/.  If it were about Hi-C and me it would be “sisi ni wacanada”.  Plural takes a “wa”.  But only for classes 1 and 2 of nouns (I think there are 10ish classes – we haven’t gotten there yet).

AAAAAnd the big REVEAL:

Where will Hi-C and I be going for our final two weeks in Africa?  Our (tentative) plans are:
 -finish placement in mbita on the coast of lake victoria
-grab a bus to jinga, Uganda for some white water rafting.
-get back on the bus and head to….RWANDA for a few days.  See some sights.
-head back to Nairobi
-3 days in the maasai mara (aka serengeti) tracking animals and waiting for the wildebeest to migrate
-back to Nairobi to fly home

*Technically the “si” should have an accent on the /i/ to mean yes instead of “if” but I don’t feel like figuring out how to do that right now.

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3 thoughts on “A Language Lesson

  1. Vixxen says:

    Firstly, language lessons seem like fun! I love the feet thing.Secondly, Uganda? Cool, but scary? Or maybe my love affair with The Last King of Scotland has brainwashed me into believing Hollywood lies. And let's not even CONSIDER Hotel Rwanda (kidding — never saw it).Anyway, be safe and have fun!!

  2. Katie V. says:

    Hey sister, both countries are much safer than they used to be. We have some connections in both places. No worrying!

  3. Sarah P. says:

    Nice! I've been to Jinga, though very briefly and not for white water rafting. Have a blast!Also, I'm glad you love language. Learning a new one sounds very painful to me.Happy African Trails!

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