Saturday, September 1

Speaking the Lingo

Can you speak Swahili? Are you sure? While English is widely spoken in Tanzania, Swahili (Kiswahili) is the other national language. According to Wikipedia, it is spoken by 90% of Tanzanians in addition to their first, tribal languages. So how much do you know? Probably a little more than you expect! (I'm pretty sure most of you will be thinking 'I don't know any Swahili, what planet is she on?') 

Well, let's see ... Have you watched the Lion King? Do you know the song 'Hakuna Matata'? It really does mean 'No worries'! The main character in the movie is called Simba, he is a lion ... Simba means Lion! Have you ever dreamed of going on safari? While we often associate it with an African game-park style holiday, the word safari actually means journey. Now do you know any Swahili?

When I lived in Tanzania before, I tried to learn the lingo a bit. It is possible to get by without but my experience was definitely much richer for the effort. I have always loved languages so I was up for the challenge too and the local people really appreciated that I had taked the time to learn it. When I returned to England I never imagined for a million years that the first job I got would mean I got to use Swahili from time to time, translating and actually giving briefings in it.

Some words were more difficult than others to get the hang of ... but there are some hilarious variations of English thrown in there too (here are just a few) ...

karoti - carrot
blanketi - blanket
picha - picture
baisikeli - bicycle
musiki - music
Desemba - December
tochi - torch (flashlight)
kipi-lefti - roundabout (keep left!)

... so, I guess the moral of the story is, if all else fails try the English word and add '-i' on the end!

Today I popped into our local library to pick up some of the books I had on hold there. I came out with a whole armful of Swahili books. Some kiddies story books, some phrase books and some more language/grammar type ones. There are still more on order to come. (I love our library!)

I wanted to see what was out there and what may or may not be worth buying, to add to my old books from last time! Abigail can already count to 10 in Swahili from a book we bought last year and both she & Naomi are loving the kiddies books we got today. My plan, is to get a bit of study time in of my own once Mark has finished his FAA exams, so I can begin brushing up on my grammar. I've no doubt given half a chance the girls will pick it all up a lot quicker than me and Mark, so anything for a little head start!

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