Africa and Her Tongues

I am proud to say I am not one of those people who DON’T see color. I see color. I love color. Whenever I have the priviledge of meeting a new person of African Descent (NPOAD – I don’t think that will catch on, but hey…) I always ask what their heritage is. It becomes a little complicated in places like the USA, but in Canada it is a much more acceptable question. Most NPOADs in Canada have close ties to one of the Caribbean Islands or an African country. (Just so you know, I hound nonNPOADs and it is astounding how many have Irish heritage.)

I love the differences in culture because it makes for a richer experience if I can go to the home of a family from Gambia, sample their food, listen to their music and talk to them about their World view. I love the amazing range of myths and legends that have been passed down through the generations, fables to teach children what acceptable behaviour is and lessons about their own culture. The clothes and jewelry adapted for modern times, still brilliantly crafted, gloriously displayed on varying shades of chocolate skin and the muscular, curved bodies shaped by daily activities.

So, you get it. I love Africa. But what I love most about Africa is her languages.




Beautiful, aren’t they? They twist your tongue and roll your mind. Sometimes you don’t even have to know what is being said. I read a blog by a Nigerian living in America. He wrote:

 Sisi Clara at the embassy in Washington DC would take one withering look at the pale jelly fish quivering in her presence at the embassy, stamp a lusty DENIED! on his passport and shoo him off with the sage words: “Gerraway jo! Olosi! Your father will not see Nigeria, your mother will not see Nigeria! You will not see the yansh of Nigeria! Olosi! Olori buruku! Moose from Alaska!” And the wimp would slink off wailing: “I want to go to Nigeria! Waaaaaaaaah!” (permalink)

It doesn’t mater that I don’t know what Olosi or yansh means, the gist of the conversation makes me snicker and laugh. I enjoy the story. Occassionally, my best friend and partner in crime will say something in her mother tongue and I’ll laugh because I understand the intention of her words even though I do not understand them.

What does this mean? Can we still communicate, with the vastness and variety that Africans are allowed to enjoy, and understand one another’s intentions? Can I write a story, fill it with words that cannot be expressed in English and still have my audience connect with me?

I still yearn to learn the different languages. I pick up words here and there, hoping that something will infect my brain and suddenly WHOOSH! It will all come alive and understanding any language will be my unique gift. That would be the day.


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