Oh yes…you’d best believe it…that above phrase is how I introduce myself. It means that I’m a new volunteer at CCHIPs. And you’d also best believe that I have no idea how to actually say it.
So begins the story of Eli Mitchell learning to speak Kinyrwandan, a folk language that describes relationships rather than creates new words. For example, the literal translation for “they are brothers” is “they are of the same womb.”
Honesty time: I was too slow to fulfill the Dartmouth language requirement. I only got HPs (~Cs) in high school French because I taught my teacher’s daughter how to play lacrosse. And I dropped Spanish 2 in college because my teacher told me I would not get the requisite B- needed to go on the Language Study Abroad. (Thank you, forever, Semester at Sea for still allowing me to see the world.) Everybody in my family is dyslexic and ADD.
I have absolutely no reason to believe that I will ever be able to learn Kinyrwanda.
Yet, tomorrow at 10am, we’re going to head out to the local jail for two hours where they teach Kinyrwandan lessons.
Just in case I become highly competent in that two hour block, I’m going to take the time now, to tell you why Kinyrwandan is so confusing to me (besides the fact that nd/mb/nyrw are considered pronounceable, the average word is 10 letters long, and there is no grammar to speak of): so far, it seems that every important word begins with an “m.” As a reminder: I’m dyslexic. All words that being with an “m” look the same to me:
Mwarimutse: Good Morning
Mwirwe: Good afternoon
Muramuke: Good night
Murakoze: Thank you
Murabeho: Good bye
Muhezo: Old man. (Very important word, because they are referred to very often. I will have a separate blog about Muhezos.)
Musanze: Where I live
Muhoro: More specifically, where I live in Musanze. Note the similarity to Muraho.
Muhabuha: close-by volcano (pronounced “Murabura”)
Makumyabiri na rimwe: 21…very important because it’s my age
Si mvugai: I don’t understand
…okay…the last one’s a stretch…but I think you get the point that every Rwandan word I actually know begins with an “m.”