Language, the unique tool man has developed to describe objects, emotions, and ideas with words, is one of our most innovative inventions. Without language, our ideas and thoughts would be…well, nothing. It is language and our relationship with words that allows us to think, comprehend, and imagine. These associations with words and feelings are also part of what creates a culture of rituals, religions, and customs. Even more interesting is the development of languages across the continents and how history indisputably shapes its subsequent evolution.
Our group had the second round of lectures at Moi University today, including lectures on language, colonial legacy, and religion. Since we’re on the topic of language, I’m happy to say my previous thoughts on the development and necessity of language fit in well with the development of Ki-Swahili. I’m no expert at the language or history of Ki-Swahili, but I have learned a great deal from our lessons and lectures. In a large nutshell, Ki-Swahili (which is the language. Swahili are the people) is a Bantu language with much of its basis from Arabic. Although the origin is not completely known, it is believed a blending of Arabic and Persian from traders mixed with the Coastal Bantu to produce what is now the official language of Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, the Comoros, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Since it is also the lingua franca (a bridge language) in many parts of East Africa, as well, the total number of speakers is over 60 million.
Quite often, however, I feel lost in this sea of Ki-Swahili speakers, but the most I can do is try. Luckily, I have always enjoyed learning about other languages and their nuances, even if my elementary sentences usually consist of asking someone their name or what foods they like. Attempting to speak and understand another language, from my experiences, is a great way to build relationships with strangers; the language is something that you have in common.
This past week, as well as last summer, I have been surrounded by confusing Ki-Swahili conversations and advertisements. When eavesdropping, I get excited when I understand a few words, although it usually never helps in my understanding the conversation. Our group takes Ki-Swahili lessons several evenings throughout the week, which allow me to gain a slight understanding of some verbs, conjugations, and nouns. Fortunately, I work with children during the week, so my conversations are abundant with simple questions…at least they’re not annoyed with them. One of the sweetest girls in the younger group, however, is still learning her English, so, no matter what question you ask, she will always respond with, “My name is Priscilla Aman.”
“What is my name?” “My name is Priscilla Aman.”
Ki-Swahili Phrase of the Day:
Unapenda wanyama gani? Ninapenda twiga, simba, na punda milia.
What animals do you like? I like giraffes, lions, and zebras.