Mianatra Malagasy aho = “I am studying/learning Malagasy”
Yesterday we began our language studies here in the city of Antsirabe. The Lovasoa (see previous post) where we are staying offers accommodation, meals (if you wish), and language study. Everyday we have four hours of language classes that include some culture, history, and political explanations about Madagascar as well. Our two teachers, Henry and Jackie, are engaging and delightful! They laugh with us when we make mistakes (a lot of mistakes!!!) and they encourage us to keep trying our best to learn what we can and repeat it.
Instead of a traditional method of learning the language Henry and Jackie have taken a “diving in” (according to me) approach with us. They teach us words and phrases that we will need to use on a regular basis as well as the basic sentence structure and a range of vocabulary. We are slowly using our words and I think all of us are very grateful for the patient people around the residence here who let us practice our new language with them.
In our classes Henry and Jackie told us that it would be too complicated for us to try to learn all of the language tenses, so instead we are only learning the present tense at this time. With only three weeks to learn all that we can in order to communicate in our work placement communities, that makes sense to me! Both teachers have assured us that we will be able to communicate all that we need to in the present tense and that people will also respond to us in the present tense with ease. I am thankful (and hopeful) that that is the case!
As I delve into these studies, I have been thinking about people moving to North America and learning English. I would like to think that I have always been a patient person with those who are new to “my native language” of English. These days I am very aware of being the one who has only a few words to use and needs the other person to speak slowly and clearly, it reminds me again of how important it is to be patient and clear with anyone who is new to a language.
Knowing that I will be teaching English in a few weeks in a city not so far from here, the timing of this reminder is a good one!
A Malagasy greeting for you (and for me to practice!):
Person 1: Salama tompoko! (“Hello Madam/Monsieur” – or literally, “Peace m’Lord”)
Person 2: Salama! Manahoana tompoko? (“Hello! How are you Madam/Monsieur?”)
Person 1: Tsara be! Inona ny vaovao? (“Very good! Have you any news?”)
Person 2: Tsy misy, fa misaotra. Ary ianao? (“Nothing, but thank you. And you [any news for me]?”)
Person 1: Tsy misy, fa mianatra teny Malagasy aho. (“Nothing, but I am learning Malagasy language.”)
Person 2: Tsara be! (“Very good!”)
Person 1: Eny ary. (marks the end of an informal conversation)
Person 2: Eny ary. (agrees to ending the informal conversation)
Person 1: Veloma tompoko! (“Bye monsieur/madam”)
Person 2: Veloma tompoko! (“Bye monsieur/madam”)
Even with a short conversation like this there are details to learn about Malagasy language and culture.
Malagasy are very polite and have great humility. In addressing each other, Malagasy use “tompoko” as a sign of respect- and it is good for us volunteers also to be respectful in our living here.
An exchange that happens here among people that I see as being similar to a North American greeting is the question about news. In Madagascar, in response to “do you have any news” one always says, “nothing” – then if there is news, you say, “nothing, BUT….” In North America we often say, “Hi, how are you?” in passing and the generic response is “Good (or well!) thank you!” Then sometimes we add, “but I’ve been really busy lately” or perhaps other details.
As I learn this language little by little I am very thankful for all the patient people who have taught me what I know and for all those who are patiently helping me to learn a little more!