My Rwandan friend, Marie- Josée, and her English-speaking colleague at the trauma hospital, Cecile, taught me some Kinyarwanda (Language of Rwanda). Just a few words and phrases to help me be polite and get through the military checkpoints on the major roads. Things like, I don’t understand (simbyunva), which came in handy after I greeted a soldier politely in his language and then he let loose with a stream of Kinyarwanda.

I learned to greet people politely and respond in kind, to count to one hundred, and phrases like “I’m hungry, I’m cold, I’m thirsty, come here (ngwino hano)”. I could ask someone his/her name (witwande?). I could read various medical-related phrases in the pamphlets we prepared to teach people hygiene and sanitation. And I knew some foods.

I couldn’t really converse, but I picked up a fair amount back then. I wish I could remember more of it. But I feel the same about all the other languages I’ve studied to some degree– like Portuguese, Hebrew, German and Greek.

I love how some words are so similar from language to language. I love figuring out why that is so. If I ever win the lottery (which I won’t because I don’t play the lottery), I plan to go back to school for a linguistics degree.

What unusual languages do you know? What would you do if you won the lottery?



Filed under The rest of my life, writing

3 responses to “Kinyarwanda

  1. Oh, man. We’re kindreds! I’ve always thought I’d head back to school one day and study linguistics 😀 Something about those words, man. The words. Oh, and the language thing? I can curse up a blue streak in Urdu – or ask for a glass of water, but either’ll get it done 🙂

  2. I can say things in Spanish that make the kids laugh and tell me I’m saying it all wrong. Once they stop laughing, they politely teach me the right way to say things.

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