So I’m learning Kiswahili before I head to Tanzania this summer. What is Kiswahili you ask? Well. Let me tell you. Kiswahili is actually the proper name of the language Swahili, spoken in many countries in East Africa. It’s just that we say it wrong, and don’t even know that we say it wrong. It drives Kiswahili speaking people crazy!
I had a moment with my tutor at my first proper lesson this weekend. My tutor is from Kenya, and was so impressed that I wanted to learn Kiswahili. At first I didn’t understand- of course I want to learn Kiswahili so I can communicate with people in Tanzania! After he stressed how happy he was I wanted to learn his language for like the 5th time I got it, and we had a semi-emotional moment. It’s rare for an American to go out of their way to learn Kiswahili. He was so impressed that I wanted to spend time in Tanzania and learn his language- an African Language. It meant so much to him for me to be interested in his language and his culture.
When people learn English we don’t think it’s exceptional. In fact, we are rude when people don’t speak English, and almost expect them too. How dare you travel in America and not speak English? Certainly one language isn’t better than the other, and all cultures are unique and exceptional in their own way. Why wouldn’t I want to learn Kiswahili and as much as possible about the culture in Tanzania? Why don’t more people? I get it, having a universal language is helpful. English is widely spoken, but truthfully, I am embarrassed when I travel and meet multilingual people abroad, and I only speak –womp womp- boring old English. I think we can try a little too.
Plus, Kiswahili is a great language and pretty easy to learn! There are 9 main nouns and you just change the 2 letters of the word to say it in a different tense- easy right? I’ll take a Kiswahili lesson any day over French and Spanish. The point is that my tutor shouldn’t be surprised to the point of showing actual emotion that an America wants to learn Kiswahili- not because they are forced to (he also teaches at a military school)- but because they genuinely want to.