Learning Swahili

The primary languages of Uganda are English and Luganda and I’ve been told that in Kampala everyone speaks English.  I’m not anticipating a problem with communication while in Kampala, but I believe the people of the community of Masindi will speak some English but primarily communicate amongst themselves with a Luganda dialect.  I will probably need to enlist the help of a translator when doing oral surveys while in the rural areas.  I remember watching the War Dance movie and listening to the children introducing themselves in English, but telling their whole stories using their native tongue (likely a Luganda dialect).  Their words were translated into English for the movie. I was surprised then to hear the music teachers from Kampala, who came to prepare the children of Patongo for the music festival, speak and teach them in English.  So obviously the children were learning English and perhaps could understand much better than they could speak English. But this is kind of a foreign concept to me and probably most Americans because we can go pretty much anywhere in the US and communicate in the same language.  Now there is a growing population of Spanish speaking people living in the US so we are seeing a little more diversity these days, but still, there is basically just one language.

It is also interesting that in the neighboring country of Tanzania, the primary language is Swahili, yet in Uganda, Swahili isn’t spoken. (I’m not sure if Luganda is related to Swahili- if anyone knows, please leave a comment on the blog.)  I’ve been told that the physicians at the Nyakahanga Hospital in Karagwe will be able to speak English but the patients and some of the nurses may only speak Swahili.  Since I have been anticipating this trip since last fall, I asked for Rosetta Stone Swahili for Christmas.  I opened the box and read the instructions and information about their method of teaching languages, but didn’t have a chance to start learning Swahili until just today.  I got through the first 2 lessons and it did go quite well.  What is really fascinating is that they teach you a foreign language without any translation into English and without any English being spoken. It basically is an immersion technique where you see pictures and words and also hear the words spoken.  It uses a “quiz” format to engage the learner in his/her own learning.  It really is wonderful and a perfect example of the well-known teaching technique of “active learning”.  I’ll let you know how it goes as I progress through the lessons.

About kbohan

Professor, Department of Pharmacy Practice Binghamton University School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences Binghamton, NY USA
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