Monday, March 8, 2010

L, R and foreign words

For native speakers of Kinyarwanda, there is little to no distinction between “l” and “r” sounds. The sound is some combination of the two and “d.” I understand that this presents a challenge for my English-teaching colleagues (nobody wants their students discussing the lice they eat for dinner). It is also challenging when learning the language, partly because “l” and “r” seem to be inconsistently used in spelling.

The l/r issue did present a breakthrough for me with regards to remembering the word for “students.” Umunyeshuri was tripping me up until a different teacher wrote shuli instead of shuri for “classroom” and I suddently saw the German word for school, schul. Of course – the first school teachers here were Germans and Belgians. There is, however, a native word for teacher – umwarimu. Colonists were not the first to impart knowledge to others.

Other foreign imports include ibiro for office (bureau), ifromagi for cheese, ikositimu for suit (French costume), ijaketi for jacket. Kinyarwanda has no other commonalities with anything in my linguistic background, except these colonial imports.

1 comment:

  1. And, as one Rwanda PCV recently posted with regard to Ls and Rs, there is the matter of discussing the upcoming Presidential "erections".


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