Words and More Words

I've started a beginner's class in Kiswahili. Although there are probably a lot of Kiswahili speakers where I live, I've never come across any Kiswahili language classes in my city.  But in the wee hours of Tuesday morning someone sent me a notice about the class. Next day I called the office  about registration and found myself in my first class at 6:30 p.m.the same day! I don't generally make decisions that quickly but I have been wanting to take such a class for a long while and I didn't want to miss this opportunity which won't come again until the Fall 2012.

The class is being offered by a local Non-Government Organization (NGO), or as we call it here, a non-profit society (NPS), that does charitable work in various countries in Africa.  Though the NPS doesn't appear to be working in Kenya, the languages classes are taught by Kenyans.

The class was full and most of the students were young people fresh out of university or still in university. In fact, we had one grade 9 student also.  Many of the students have travelled to different countries where Kiswahili is spoken,like Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya. Some of them have Kiswahili parents but don't speak the language. One young woman said she worked for an NGO and lived and worked in Tanzania.  She wants to keep up her language skills.  I personally thought she belonged in the Intermediate class but of course it is her decision where she chooses to register. However, I've been in classes before where one student is not a beginner like everyone else. It gets irritating when they obviously already know the answers to everything while others of us struggle along. Who knows before the class is over, I may ask her to be my private tutor, lol.



I liked the idea of creating a "Joy Cloud" so much  (see my eaarlier post from today) that I've made a Kiswahili word cloud, using some of the basic vocabulary I picked up in the first class. Don't worry though, I won't be posting word clouds every day, lol.

We covered a lot more than what I've put into the word cloud but phrases and sentences don't work so well in the wordle program.  That is why you see my short phrases with hyphens between words.

I'm thinking these word clouds might help me practice and retain the vocabulary.  I find I can pick up vocabulary fairly easily, especially if someone says the words for me first, and I can repeat after them.  However my problem is retaining what I've picked up. I would probably do much better immersed in the language and if I had one on one instruction on a daily basis. I haven't been able to spend enough time in Kenya at any one time to really learn the language.  I'm hoping this language course will help me make a better start on learning the Kiswahili language.

Our instructor told us that the late Miriam Makeba sang a Swahili song that we could also use to learn some vocabulary in an easy way. I've posted that song for you. It's a Tanzanian song called "Malaika" (My Angel). The video has some very interesting information about Ms. Makeba in the first 2 minutes and 44 seconds of the video.  If you wish to skip that part, you can fast forward the video to the start of the song at 2 minutes and 44 seconds.


"Malaika" was a sad song for me because it speaks to the economic realities of so many people who are poor and want to provide for their would-be intended. I've heard other versions of the song being sung by native Tanzanians. The song sounds much more upbeat but when you know the words, I don't know how it can be an upbeat song.  The only thing I can think of that would make it more upbeat and make sense, is that one has to make the the best of the life they have.  This is probably easier to do when everyone else around them is in more or less the same boat. If any Tanzanian reader has something to say about this song, I'd love to hear it.

39 comments:

  1. Makeba had a beautiful voice, wish I could listen to this recording.
    I applaud you for learning an African language, they are not easy and I only picked up a small amount of Shona when I lived in Zimbabwe. Once in S.Africa with so many different languages I just gave up. They have 11 official languages, and dozens of unofficial ones. The ones with the different clicks in are impossible. Bet Graham is fluent in a couple of them:) Diane

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    1. Hi Diane, when the Soweto Gospel Choir was here, they gave a little insight into the various African languages spoken in South Africa. I love that the choir has speakers of many different languages and they also sing in English.

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  2. Good one Penny - I'm sure you'll do just fine ... especially when you start interacting with the other students in Kiswahili ...

    ... I love Miriam Makeba's version of Malaika - it's the only version I've heard ...

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    1. Thank you, Graham. We started working in pairs already to practise some of the language. Next week the instructor will not speak any English to help us start thinking in Swahili.

      Glad you like Makeba's version of Malaika. The song I knew of hers growing up was "Pata Pata". That song always gets me moving :-)

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  3. Haha and well done Penny. How wonderful that you used wordle for this purpose. I am now very interested in learning more about the Kiswahili language. How beautiful Mariam Makeba's voice is, and the language is so beautiful too. Now i want to know more about kiswahili and swahili and the differences - i have just had a quick look on google and see that they are the same. I have an old friend who I think about as I read about you learning this language.You have reminded me that I need to contact her and visit. xx

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    1. Wonderful Jan. This language is very valuable if you travel to any Kiswahili speaking countries as I do. I'm glad my post reminded you of an old friend. Have fun reconnecting. xx

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  4. Wonderful you now have the opportunity to learn Kiswahili, and in so doing fulfil one of your long held ambitions. Do hope you have plenty of opportuniies to speak it.
    Blessings.

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    1. Thank you, Jan. I'm pleased to be able to start my study. Blessings. xx

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  5. I always loved Miriam Makeba's voice, Penny. And when she sang with Harry Belafonte, it was beyond wonderful. I haven't been able to find any reference to her visiting Vancouver, but I did see Belafonte perform there twice, once in the 60s and once in the 70s.
    I really enjoyed this video. I'd forgotten about her marrying Stokely Carmichael. Of course, I've forgotten a lot of things, LOL.
    Thanks for this post, my friend.
    K

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    1. Me too, Kay. I first saw both Miriam Makeba an Harry Belafonte on the Ed Sullivan Show. Where I lived there was no way I'd ever even contemplated seeing such artists "live". That was simply another world away from my reality, lol. Glad you could drop by and relive some memories. Blessings. xx

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  6. Hello Joyful.
    Do not really understand what it is you have signed up with ..... a course.
    Thanks for the comment on my blog "Mad about everyday life" - if you are into natural images without much text, try taking a look at my photo blog.
    www.hbt.finus.dk.
    I created a photo blog in feberuar 2012, with images of nature / animals / flowers etc.
    Wishing you a good weekend.
    Hugs Hanne Bente

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    1. Yes, my friend, a language course. Thank you for letting me know about your other blog. I love nature and will check it out when I have some time to browse around ;-) Happy weekend.

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  7. Hello Joyful.
    Thank you :)
    It was also what I gradually had understood your post, but I was not 100% sure.
    I know that you have a big heart for Kenya.
    Wishing you a good weekend.
    Hugs Hanne Bente

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  8. Penny, nimefurahi sana kuona kwamba umeanza kujifunza Kiswahili. Nilicheka sana kwa kuona tafsara ya 'shenzi wewe'. :-) Ninakutakia kila la heri unapoendelea kujimudu kwa lugha ya taifa letu.

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    1. Thank you for your encouragement. I couldn't make out everything you said. That will be an assignment for me, lol. But I think you had a point of difference over the meaning with my instructor over "Shenzi wewe". I hope I am able to retain whatever I can learn in the next several weeks ;-)

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    2. If you come back to see my comment, let me know what is meant by 'tafsara' and "kujimudu'. Thanks so much and have a great weekend.

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    3. I have roughly deciphered what you are saying. First you are saying that you are very glad that I have started to learn Swahili. Then it is something about a commentary on "Shenzi wewe" and how it is more like the "savage in you". Lastly, you are wishing me well as I manage or handle, Swahili, your national language. Thanks so much. Every time I have to look up a new word, it will help me expand my vocabulary.
      If I have gotten something wrong, please correct me. Asante sana.

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  9. Penny, I was very glad to see that you have begun learning Kiswahili. I really laughed when I saw your translation (tafsara) of 'shenzi wewe'. :-) I wish you every success as you continue to train yourself in our national language.

    As you can see, you did very well. If we had an LOL in Swahili, I would have put it after 'shenzi wewe'. You translated it well, but I had never thought of it in that sense. Often, I have translated it as you shady type ... which is also correct as some English words have no direct translation in 'Swa', as we call it sometimes.

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    1. Thanks for getting back to me. The lack of a direct translation is quite common in languages so you usually have many ways you can say the same/similar things. BTW, I don't have a good Swahili tafsara and need to look for one. There is one on line but I am finding it difficult to use.

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  10. What a wonderful opportunity, hope the classes go well.

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  11. Hi, it's me again —
    I'm so happy for you to have found a Swahili class in Vancouver. I know you will love learning it and you will make good use of it, too.
    K

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    1. Nice to see you again, Kay. I know I will enjoy it. Thanks for your visit my friend.

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  12. Good for you, Penny! It's wonderful to keep on learning all of our lives. I like your word cloud for helping to learn vocab in Kiswahili in a creative and colorful way.

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  13. It's another world to me, I have never been in Africa and I like to read the adventures of Jo !

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  14. I just love your Kiswahili word cloud - what a great idea Penny. Good luck with the lessons - and the practising:)
    Sue

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  15. Always hard to learn a new language, good luck!

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    1. Thanks so much. It is easier to learn a new language when you are very young. Am still hopeful.

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  16. good luck with your class! good for you!

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  17. Penny,
    The word clouds are great!! thank's for sharing them. It was also very nice to hear that song, especially being translated in both languages. That also would be a fun creative way to learn the language. Good-luck. me

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  18. Joyful,
    I do not remember when I heard this beautiful song first. Since then, I have loved this lovely song. Great voice!! Thanks a lot for sharing. keiko

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