Monday, January 22, 2007

Reaching mutual intelligibility

"Kahin Sahara batansonba gudu, amma yanzu Sahara tanaso gudu."

I am learning, I am learning! I do not care that it is slow progress – I feel like a bird learning to fly! I will not vouch that the above sentence (“Before, Sahara did not like speed, but now she likes it”) is 100% grammatically correct, but it is indeed mutually intelligible! The world is opening up: a number of options are unfolding in front of me and I am only inspired to learn more… A year ago, I knew hardly any Hausa apart from the obligatory greeting sentences (Ina wuni? Lahiya low) that made people believe that I spoke a lot more than I did. However, riding with Nigeriens who do no speak any of the four languages that I master so well has made me aware of how much I am missing out on by not understanding their language, and this inspired me to pick up words. Now it's time to attack the grammar and to start piecing all the words together, but it's tricky business and Elisabeth suggested a good tutor. Previous years, I would just have smiled at the idea (me? time to take Hausa classes?) but today, it feels overdue... I long to speak the language, to able to express myself and to understand the full scope of what people around me are saying. I guess I've been spoiled to spend so many years surrounded by people who speak (more or less) French, but now it's time to leave the body language behind and reach mutual intelligibility through the words I use. Not that it'll be done by tomorrow, but at least the ambition has been established!


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