What would it be like to live in Somalia, or even just to visit? What would strike me about the culture? Since love is learning to live with quirks that sometimes rub me the wrong way (in my humble opinion), what would I love about Somalia?
I know that I would love their helpfulness. I’ve found so many people already who want to help me with the language and who love doing so. I’m already grateful.
I wonder how I would love Somali hospitality. As an American, I love my space, but I sometimes feel lonely. I’ve found that Eastern forms of hospitality assume that people should be together, that being alone might indicate a problem. The negotiation between guest and host operates constantly. I love Eastern hospitality, but I know that as an American, I feel some tension with it. As an extrovert, I’m glad to experience cultures that value highly connecting with others, so I’ve tended to enjoy myself. If my lessons this week accurately represent Somali culture, I can see that Somalis are wonderfully hospitable. I look forward to experiencing it one day.
I have a couple questions about grammar this week (below), if anyone has a moment to help me. Thank you!
Study progress update
Twitter help. I had some great help from some folks on Twitter. Imagined Art (@ItsEscapism) and SomaliLitProject (@SomaliLiteracy) offered me assistance. Imagined Art helped me with grammar (see below) and SomaliLit helped me with some translations. It’s great to make connections!
I invite anyone to help out through the comments here or on Twitter!
- Camel’s milk, of course. In this chapter (ch. 8), the word “milk” was introduced. I noticed it was two words, however, caleen geel, “camel’s milk.” Milk can come from multiple sources, of course, so I had to reflect how in English the default source of milk is cows. For the Mongols, it was probably horse. Does this book reflect a tendency, that Somali milk defaults to camel’s milk? Or is it a warning for Westerners to read the label and not to assume milk comes from cows?
- How many breads? This chapter had so many names for bread! There are three words for fluffy breads: rooti, furun, and kibis. Why so many? The first sounds like the typical South Asian bread; the second, like the Arabic word for “oven”; and the third like the Arabic word for bread, khubs, or even more like the diminuative, khubis. The lesson also included two words for flat bread, canjeelo and laxoox. I can’t help but associate the first word with Ethiopian flat bread, injera. I don’t know about laxoox. Wikipedia makes it sound local to Somalia, Djibouti, and Yemen. (Thanks to Yemeni Jews, it is now very popular in Israel.) “Bread” makes Somalia sound to me like a fascinating cross-roads of cultures, amalgamating bread from East and West.
This fact shows me the multiple cultures and influences in Somali culture. Goods and ideas and traditions come from East and West, as well as being home-grown.
For your enjoyment, here’s a video in Somali for cooking laxoox:
And for baking Italian rooti:
- Serve your guest a drink. The phrase for “What do you want to drink?” came up in my book this week. The author included a significant footnote on it, however. It said, “Often in Somali culture this type of question is not even asked of a guest. Rather the host simply brings out something to drink, e.g. tea or soda for the guest.” Americans would think this is rude. The host brings you a drink, even though you didn’t ask for it, and probably expects you to drink at least some of it, even though you don’t want it. I’ve been in this situation in many places in the world, even though I’ve never been to East Africa. I’m happy this book warns the reader right off the bat.
- Use of oo and ah in relative clauses. Thanks to Imagined Art (@ItsEscapism), I learned more about how relative clauses work. The marker for the relative seems to be oo, and the end marker is ah. The first marker can be confusing because it’s a homonym with a word for “and.” Also, sometimes the relative marker is aa and takes suffixes. For example, “The place where you are” is haalki aad joogtid, where the aa takes the second person singular ending.
The end marker is confusing because it doesn’t appear when the relative clause is something besides a nominal clause, ie, the verb is not “be.” In that case, the clause includes a different verb. I asked myself if that ah marker is just the “be” verb, but it’s different. Normally, one would expect yahay. I would guess that the ah represents maybe a reduced form of the “be” verb.
Can anyone explain this relative clause marker? Please do so in the comments.
- Alternation between “r” and “dh”. I noticed that sometimes the spelling of a word can change. For example, my book introduces the word fariiso and then offers the alternative fadhiiso. It makes sense, since a flapped “r” would easily sound like a “dh” if you leave your tongue there for a moment longer. There could be a dialectical difference, too. As an American, the way I can tell a Scottish accent is if the tongue hits the roof of the mouth for an “r”, since it won’t touch for a standard English accent. Does anybody know if this is dialectical in Somali?
- What is kuu? In the “drink” question, it says, Maxaan kuu keena? “What do you bring?” I understand the words and the sense, but I don’t understand what kuu adds to or changes in the sentence. Can someone please explain?
I’m so pleased that I’m learning more about Somali culture from my textbook. I dislike some things from the book, but the recognition of distinct dialects and of the differences from Western culture is a bonus. If I get a chance to visit Somalia, I may just get served camel’s milk without being asked! I wonder what kind of bread will come with it?
Thank you also to everyone who is interacting with me here and on Twitter. What do you think of Somali? Do you see differences between it and other East African languages that you know about? similarities?
Have you experienced Western and Eastern hospitality? What differences do you see? How have you negotiated the differences?