Sunday, May 9, 2010

Chichewa Studies

Malawi has two official languages. One is English. I think I can handle that one, although some days I am not so sure. The other is Chichewa (also called Nyanja) which I had never heard of until last fall when we bid on Malawi. I looked it up online and found that English is mostly spoken in larger cities while Chichewa is common throughout much of the country. Hmmm....sounds like I am going to have to learn at least a little Chichewa.

Those of you who know me well, or have read this blog for a while know that languages are NOT my gift. I am hopeless at languages. Totally and completely hopeless. In spite of that I am determined to make a better start in Malawi than I did in either Germany or Indonesia. So I started looking for computer programs to help me learn Chechewa. It didn't take me long to discover there isn't much out there, not even Rosetta Stone which is pretty much OK with me since I find Rosetta Stone the best cure for insomnia ever. Twenty minutes of that and I am out like a light. Pretty expensive cure for sleeplessness if you ask me. There are no handy online dictionaries or beginner lessons with audio to tell me how to pronounce the words. The only thing I found was this and this, the later being a textbook from 1969. Ummm....Yeah.

I finally found an app for my ipod touch that teaches the basics, you know colors, numbers, food, where's the bathroom. I paid the 10 bucks and downloaded it to my touch. Theoretically if I practice everyday I should arrive in Malawi with a vocabulary of 250 words, which would be at least 225 more words than I have in either German or Indonesian. Here is what I have learned so far:

telephone - telephoni
coffee - khofi
wine - vinyo
asprin - aspirini
taxi - tekisi
passport - passiporti
keys - makiyi
shower - shawa

Hey this isn't so bad. Maybe I can learn Chichewa. There is hope for me after all! Let's continue.

water - madzi
milk - mkaka
yes - inde
no - ayi
hospital - chipatal
good-bye - ndapita
one - chimodzi
two - ziwiri
three - zitatu

This is getting a little harder, but not too bad. I'll keep working.

hello - takulandriani
train - sitima ya pa mtunda
corn - chimanga chachiwisi
toast - buledi wootcha
credit card - khadi ya ku banki
sunglasses - magalasi a dzuwa
toothpaste - mankhwala otsukila mano

Crap! I'm screwed!


Connie said...

I like the words for toast - buledi WOOTcha! If I ever get to Malawi, I'm ordering lots and lots of toast!

Shannon said...

LOL! Actually a lot of it sounds really cool. Personally I like the word for car - galimoto. Don't know why I just think it sounds cool.

I am hopeful that since it is such a limited vocabulary presented (250 words) that at least maybe I can get that down before we get there in August, but if all I learn is how to ask where the bathroom is I will be happy. As far as i am concerned "Where is the toilet?" is the most important phrase to learn in any language.

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia ora korua!
(Hello both of you!)

I lived in Malawi as a child from the time I was 7 till I was nearly 10 years old. In those days (1950's) it was called Nyasaland. I Lived in a town called Dedza, a protectorate in the Angoni Highlands, for nearly a year. I used to swim naked in the Shiré river which ran through Dedza and strangely, never suffered sunburn or heatstroke.

I was familiar with the language and used to translate for my parents when the need arose - but most of what I knew has since flown from my memory.

Reading this list of common words gives me such amazing flashbacks though. I recall some of the expressions. The one I liked the most was 'chimanga!", which I took to mean 'good grief' or 'wow', but of course, it also means a particular type or quality of maize.

Later in 1953, we moved to Mpemba, near Blantyre.

My recollection of the Nyasaland people is of a friendly fun-loving nation whose sense of rhythm and musicality was something quite amazing to hear.

Ngā mihi nui
(Best wishes)

Unknown said...

if anyone still finds trouble learning Chichewa, i can offer lessons. Iam a Malawian young man passionate about spreading the knowledge of my language. hit me at I'l be very excited to help.