Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Simanyi…bambi yogera mpola mpola!

[I don’t’ know…please speak more slowly]

My Luganda has improved a lot. I’m not able to hold a conversation; I’m not even able to understand a full conversation between people near me. Yet, when I look at my vocabulary at week 9 last time, and my vocabulary now-again at week 9-I have improved greatly.

We don’t offer Luganda as a language in American schools. Why should we, when out of the whole world, only people of this region of Uganda use it as their main language? Yet schools in Uganda teach English. By the time a person has finished secondary school, he or she is probably fluent in English. I have been in Uganda for a cumulative time of 18 weeks. I speak enough to be polite-or at least that is what I told myself until last week. It had always been a declaration of mine that I would learn to speak enough to be polite in every place I travel in this world. After many people have been pestering me about my “lack of understanding,” I have come to “understand” that because I am not fluent in Luganda, I am therefore being impolite. Some people find it upsetting that I could be here for “so long” and not pick up such an “easy” language. I’d be willing to bet they aren’t half as upset as I am!

In my defense I can say, “Good morning! How are you? I am fine! Well done, Madam or Sir! You are welcome. Welcome home. Good to be home! My name is Nankya Kristen. Woman, man, children, grandparent/elder. Come, let’s go. You go away. All of you go away. You are my friend. I am cold. I am tired. We move slowly. Drive slow. Good evening. Safe journey. Good bye. Thank you. Yes please.”

Like I said, I thought it was enough to be polite! I guess I will need to be doing flashcards in my spare time. Foreign language comes easily for some—not me though. I recall needing a tutor to get me through high school Spanish. This time, I don’t have a tutor, but I did buy a Luganda phrasebook while in Kampala…

Wish me luck,
Nze Nankya Kristen


  1. Kristin, Christine, Kristine, Kristen, Mzungu,
    Yes, good luck! I have at least 3 phrase books, a computer course, and about 50 weeks spent in Uganda--still, less Luganda than you have. I do understand more than the Ugandans think I do, but that's not always a bad thing. ;-) And, the language is not simple if: a) the people laugh at you when you try, b) to change the tense etc. you must change the beginning of the word c) the spelling is dependent on the individual speaker, and d) the tone changes the meaning. So, GOOD LUCK! Weeraba, Jjajja Elaine

  2. Elaine,

    So true! If I learn "conversational" Luganda it will be against all odds!

    John Robert and Teacher Charles have both separately told me that I was in "Baby class" as far as my language skills go. ha. Great! I thought I had made it at least to Top class...

  3. Coming from the eastern part of Uganda, it took JR quite awhile to pick up Luganda. Who is he to criticize an American trying to learn?? Just keep talking with the students--helping them to improve their English ;-). Soon (if not already), they will be better English speakers than their teachers. Don't let it get to you; you have a ton of skills, talents and knowledge that you are sharing. I'm sure they are grateful and mostly just teasing you.