Monday, March 18

Telling the Time

I had an interesting conversation with Maria (the mama who works in our home) today. She asked me what the time was and then got her mobile phone out to explain that she didn't understand how to read the time on there.

Maria is a total superstar and has been more than a blessing to us here. I'm sure I'll tell you more about what she gets up to another time. Every so often though, she'll tell me that she doesn't know very much because she didn't go to school.

Learning to tell the time is one of those big learning curves in primary school, something that as an adult we take for granted. But Maria doesn't have trouble with telling the time from a watch or clock, just the digital type. 

It was just before midday and the phone read 11:54. She couldn't understand why there was an 11 in there. Why? Because in Swahili, telling the time is a whole different kettle of fish! 

Check out the clock below. At first glance it is just a clock ... but then take a closer look at the numbers, it's like they have completely flipped! The numbers 1-6 have completely swapped places with 7-12.

The day here in Tanzania starts when the sun comes up ... around 7am, it is the first hour and is called 'Saa Moja', literally 'Hour One' ... and the day continues like that. So when Maria asked me the time I had replied that it was almost 'Saa Sita' (Hour Six), midday. No wonder she was confused that there was a number 11 on her phone!

My watch has markings but no numbers, so Maria is able to read it, no problem. I drew her a clock, with numbers as we would say them in English  (because we currently have no clocks in our house!!) and she was really surprised to see that we would say 12 at the top and not 6.

Learning to tell the time out here takes quite a bit of mental gymnastics. First, you have to learn the numbers in Swahili and then you have to swap them around in your head before they come out of your mouth! If you're not careful  arrangements you make with Tanzania friends could get a bit confused!

One addition ... just to clarify, the clocks don't actually look like this out here ... but this is the best way to show how they flip the numbers!!

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