Week 1 of loving Somali: Exotic discoveries

Has your language produced exotic fruit?
Has your language produced exotic fruit?

So far I’ve kept to my goal of studying two chapters per week of La soco af soomaaliga and memorizing vocabulary daily with Anki. The book is not organized in a really clear way, and it doesn’t translate all the vocabulary. Fortunately, Google Translate manages Somali (barely) and I found an awesome Somali dictionary app.

(For this dictionary app, you can find the website here. They distribute this app for free to make it avialable to everyone, so please donate! The iOS app is here, and the Android app here.)

I love grammar, by the way. Some polyglots talk about how you shouldn’t spend too much time on grammar. I agree, if you end up obsessing about saying everything correctly. However, when you find grammar a never-ending puzzle of joy, like I do, then it’s a beautiful obsession.

Somali grammar offers all kinds of cool words and grammar points.

  1. More vowels means longer vowels. In Somali, the length of vowels makes a big difference. For example, ku means “you”, and kuu means “to/for you.”
  2. There are two different words for “we”. Imagine you’re a teenager and you want to go to a movie with your good friend. You say to your younger sibling, “We’re going to a movie.” Your sibling says, “Yay! What movie are we going to?” You break the news to your sibling saying, “Sorry, WE are going to the movie,” as you point to yourself and your friend. Your sibling understood an “inclusive we“, namely, friend+me+you, but you intended an “exclusive we,” namely, friend+me. Somali has two words for this. The inclusive we is inagu, and the exclusive we is annagu.
  3. Hooddi. I don’t know another language that has a one-word translation of this word. I’m not sure what this word means literally means, but it’s what you say when you come to someone’s door, kind of like, “Is anyone there?” (If someone can explain the word literally, please do so in the comments.)
  4. Soo gal. If you know and like the person who said hooddi, then you would follow with this phrase, meaning, “Come in!” Gal means “enter,” and the soo requires a bit more explanation. It is an adverb that can have lots of meanings, but here indicates that the action moves towards the speaker. If anyone knows other verbs that can be used with soo in this way, please leave some more examples in the comments.
  5. You can use articles on pronouns. If you do so, it makes the pronoun more emphatic. So ani or anaa mean “I”, and anigu or aniga are literally, “the I” meaning an emphatic, “I myself.”

I’m going to be looking soon for a teacher. I got so many good suggestions on my last post; I’ll have to do the hard work to go and find one. I can’t wait to make some new Somali friends, so I’m sure the hard work will offer some great rewards.

How is your language study coming along? Are you keeping to your goals? Did you learn any cool, unique aspects of your language?

Photo credit: tubblesnap / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)


10 thoughts on “Week 1 of loving Somali: Exotic discoveries

  1. Iska Warren!….I really want to learn Somali myself, I have a lot to do with Somalis and many people have offered to help me learn but really I need a proper Somali language teacher. If you find an online course please let me know.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nabad! Oh, Aiyshah, I wish I could offer you something more structured. I’m looking for someone to help me learn, too.

      Maybe we need to make the material we need? A couple other folks on my blog are trying to learn, and are running into the same problem you describe.

      What would be the next step? We see what we need, but it’s not there. How do we create it?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Fiid winaxin! The closest thing I found was a CD in Somali words and phrases. It helped me a little but really I need a proper teacher. In some cities in the western world there are university courses run by Somalis to teach the language, but here there is nothing (I’m in Malaysia).

        Perhaps there is someone who is willing to teach us by skype?


  2. Tagalog has the same inclusive/exclusive “we” grammar point (also inclusive/exclusive “us” and “our”). I think it’s very interesting! Like you, I enjoy grammar. While I agree that it shouldn’t be THE focal point of language learning, I’ve never been able to wrap my head around the idea of learning a language without learning any grammar at all. Have fun learning Somali!


    1. Thank you for that point about Tagalog! I think this is a fairly common aspect among Pacific languages, isn’t it? I don’t know how common it is among African languages, though.

      I’m glad to know that I’m not the only one who thinks grammar is cool. I don’t know a car enthusiast who doesn’t enjoy talking about how engines work. They make sure they find time to drive the car, though.


  3. Pingback: Week 2 of loving Somali: Time and greetings | Loving Language

  4. Great blog, Richard! The word ‘hooddi’ is actually new to me. You’re absolutely right….finding language resources for Somali, or even teachers, is quite challenging. Many of the teachers you may find are not well versed in linguistics, which results can make things challenging for students. Have you checked out the Somali language classes at University of Minn?


    1. I saw that they have courses, but I imagine they’re not so convenient for working 8-5. I know MCTLC has courses, but I haven’t been able to work that out yet.

      I reached out to the U of M professor to see whatever teachers there might be. I’m not picky. I have a background in linguistics, so I can usually figure things out.

      My other posts about learning Somali attempt to cover interesting linguistic points, with some scientific explanations. Hopefully they will add to general knowledge.


  5. Pingback: Week 3 of loving Somali: Coffee and Somali | Loving Language

  6. Pingback: Week 4 of loving Somali: Joy, pumpkins, and goat meat | Loving Language

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.