Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Language lessons

I met with my project coordinator, a Peruvian that works for ProPeru, the first weekend I was here. He had the strongest handshake I've ever experienced, so I said so. Or at least, I said, not knowing the word for handshake: tienes un buen mano (You have a good hand). He looked down, and I followed his gaze, noticing at once that at some point earlier in his life, he had lost half of his thumb.

Gracias, he said. We moved on swiftly.

Some older members of the communities around Chichubamba do not speak Spanish. I experienced this whilst looking for the elusive post office. From beneath her wrinkles and deep tan, a tiny old lady indicated that she couldn´t understand my enquiry.

The ones that do speak Spanish, speak with much affection. Papa, Mama, Tio, Tia (Father, Mother, Uncle, Aunt) are all regularly employed to address people, regardless of whether they are complete strangers or close friends. As you might imagine, the family gathering (see previous post) was a nightmare from this point of view. I was introduced to sisters who were then addressed as mama, mothers who were addressed as tia, and I rapidly became a papa.

In an attempt to ingratiate ourselves with the more far-flung communities, we have had a lesson in Quechua, the local language. Here follows a few key phrases:

The name of the language is Runa Simi, the language of the people. simi, means both 'language' and 'mouth'.

The spanish language is known as alqu simi, the language of dogs, since that is what they consider it to sound like.

Imaynalla Kashianki How are you?

Allillanmi Fine

Huq 1

Ishay 2

Kinsa 3

Tana 4

Miski Your food is delicious!

My favourite: machananchis kamalla Until our next drunken session!

1 comment:

Bryce said...

That's a very interesting story. I enjoyed it mucho.

Now here's something for you to enjoy: a website all in Quechua.

Runa Simi wiki browser