Week 2 of loving Somali: Time and greetings

How do you greet people in Somali? At what time?
How do you greet people in Somali? At what time?

This week I noticed some cool facts about time in Somali, namely, how they tell time, name the days, and greet each other. I also found some parallels with other languages I know. I think the latter might help some of my readers. Since I’ve studied a lot of languages, I’m able to see some interesting parallels that may help others to skip some steps in trying to learn these facets of Somali. I find it fascinating when I find some peculiar construction in a language, and then stumble upon it unexpectedly in a totally unrelated language. “This looks familiar!” always gets me excited.

I met my goals this week again, and I’m grateful. I never know how long I can keep to a long-term schedule, but week by week is the only way to get there, right?

I’m afraid that my textbook isn’t always clear with what words and phrases mean–but that’s not always bad. There is no vocabularly list, and the cartoon panels aren’t so clear. I have to use other resources, such as on-line dictionaries or Google Translate to figure them out. One stumped me completely. The sentence is shaati ha ii samayn ee surwaal ii. The short words are always a challenge for me in Somali, so I fed the entire sentence into Google Translate, which rendered it, “Let me make a shirt in my pants.” I died laughing, and so did my kids. A friend astutely added, “We were saved by the ‘r’!” Hilarious, but I still don’t know what this sentence means, so if one of my dear readers could help, I’d appreciate it.

Here are my “discoveries” from this week:

  1. Somali tells time upside-down. I learned that Somali tells time upside-down. How is this? When you look at the hour hand on a clock, the Somali time is six hours behind. The Somali day starts at 6 pm, which is midnight in the more standard method. The European day starts about 7 am, which is 1 am Somali time. (This method is being used less and less by the younger generation, however.)
  2. Somali days are borrowed from Arabic. In Arabic, the days of the week follow the tradition of Hebrew and are named by number. Sunday is day one or yawm ahad or just ahad. The difference is that in Arabic, Friday is yawm al-jumaa or “day of gathering.” Somali borrowed the Arabic names of days, following the Arabic numbers.
  3. “Get to know the greetings which are used in your area.” One section of unit 4 was on greetings for different times of day. At the end there was a note that said, “These are only a few of the many greetings there are in Somali. Get to know the ones which are used in your area.” I’m intrigued! This reminds me of my experience in Switzerland and Germany, where greetings can have a certain local flavor or accent, or may consist of completely different words. Can anyone tell me some of the varieties in Somali? The book tantalized me without giving me any of these variations.
  4. Possessives take articles. In a more technical grammar point, possessives in Somali take a possessive suffix in addition to an article. This is similar to Italian, where you would say, for example, la mia madre for “my mother.” The article functions a little differently in Somali than in Italian, however, because the article in the former can communicate case and more degrees of relevancy to the current conversation, that is, whether the thing has been talked about recently or not. (I hope to learn more about this aspect of Somali grammar later.) So an article on top of a possessive adds discourse information in Somali.
  5. Negative imperatives require two words. In another parallel with Romance–French in this case–Somali requires two words for a negative imperative. For example, “Write!” is qor!, but “Don’t write!” is ha qor-in!. We see the similar two-word negative in French, where the word ne precedes the verb, and then pas follows.

With these new facts, I’ll move into my third week. I’m so happy it’s moving along. I have to say, though, my study has been pretty passive. Namely, I’m spending my time reading and working vocabulary Somali to English. I’m not speaking or writing much at all. I’m ok with that for now, as I’ll move into more active learning when the opportunity arises.

How is your language learning coming along? What did you discover this week that looked cool?

Is there anything about the Somali language you’d like to know? I can’t imagine I’d know already, but it would be fun to do the research or get the assistance of my readers.
Photo credit: becosky… / Foter / CC BY-SA



6 thoughts on “Week 2 of loving Somali: Time and greetings

  1. I had to laugh when I read your paragraph about time in Somali. We have had a few problems with students arriving late for class (in fact 6 hours late) because they don’t understand the time. We say that the class starts at 9.00 and find them turning up at 3.00 in the afternoon. Crazy. They usually feel really embarrassed and don’t make the mistake again.

    Liked by 1 person

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

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

  4. Pingback: Preserving Somali in Minnesota – Loving Language

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