Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Good moaning

"Good moaning. I was pissing by the door, when I heard two shats. You are holding in your hound a smoking goon, you are clearly the guilty potty."

I've realised that this is what I must sound when I try to speak Swahili.... the Anglo-African equivalent of Officer Crabtree from 'Allo 'Allo.

Although there are only so many vowels sounds that can be made, and god bless them for not changing when two vowels sit next to each other ("ao" = "ah-oh", rather than creating a new pronunciation altogether... unlike the Germanic languages), the vowels often change depending on whether you're talking in positive or negative tense, or multiple or singular. And, as with most languages, some words are just one letter different from each other. A very important single letter.

Take for example, one of the very first words that I learnt: kuelewa = to understand. I also learnt sielewi  = I don't understand.

Then add to that, the word that I learnt just the other day: kuolewa = to marry.

And now, picture the confusion on street vendors' faces when,  instead of telling them that I want to understand, I was very possibly telling them that I want to marry.

Nataka kuelewa versus nataka kuolewa.

Since I learnt about about this new word, the often-bewildered expressions I've received in response make so much more sense. I also now know how to say, "I said the wrong word!"

Hapana, mimi nilisema neno makosa!

I think.