After my last trip to Malawi (summer 2009) I vowed to myself that I would make a more concerted effort to learn the national language, Chichewa. Malawi was a British protectorate. Therefore, English is also a national language and many Malawians, expecially in the cities, speak English. Because of this, a foregner can get around quite easily without speaking Chichewa or any of the other tribal languages. Of course, as any good traveller knows, if you make an effort to learn a peoples' language, it is often much appreciate, is amusing to your new friends, and opens up a whole new world into understanding the culture on a deeper level.
Since Dsenyo is starting to work with several sewing cooperatives, many of which are located in rural villages, my need to speak the local language has increased. I studied and learned a bit of Chitimbuka while living in Mzuzu, Malawi but this language is localized only in the north with the Timbuka people. If I learn Chichewa, which is taught in schools throughout the country, I have a better chance of being able to communicate with more people.
So, here we go! I thought I would share some Chichewa lessons with all of you.
Chichewa is a Bantu-based language. It belongs to the family of Bantu languages which also includes the better known KiSwahili (Tanzania). If you know Spanish, you are familiar with the Latin family of languages and know that you can use your knowledge of Spanish to learn French more easily than, say, German. It's the same with Chichewa. If you learn one Bantu language, some of that knowledge can translate to learning other Bantu languages.
Chichewa = Language of the Chewa people
"Chi" = Language of; "Chewa" = The Chewa People/Tribe
An interaction always starts with "how are you?". Even when you are just passing someone on the street. It is very rude not to inquire about how someone and their family are doing before going into other conversation.
"moni, abambo" (mo-nee, ah-bahm-bo)= Hello father (sir, elder, respect)
"moni, amayi" (mo-nee, ah-mah-yee) = Hello mother (ma'am, elder, respect)
"Muli bwanji" (moo-dee, bwah-ngee) = How are you?
"Ndili bwino" (ndee-dee, bwee-no) = I am well, fine, good
"Tili bwino" (tee-dee, bwee-no) = We are well, fine, good
"Kaya Inu" (kaya, ee-noo) = And, how are you?
"Zikomo" (zee-komo) = Thank you