Thursday, January 15, 2009

Language • Língua • Nthava

Caneto, Nolita, Me, and Cocas

Hello! This post is for anyone who might ever want to visit us or write a few words to the kids in Portuguese (or laugh at me for all the mistakes I must be making and am clueless about (starting with the spelling of the word Macua . . . yes, I know)). Anyway . . .


Macua is the local language in the area where we live and has more speakers than any other African language in Mozambique. Though Portuguese is the official language and the only one used in business, literature, and school, Macua is the language first spoken at home and is better understood by many older people. Every church service is translated into both languages and some of the best music is in Macua.

It seems that to many people here there is nothing more exciting and funny than when a mukunya (foreigner) says a word in Macua. You can basically make people laugh their heads off whenever you want by simply saying anything and some people even act like they just heard a goat speak. For the first few months I was here it was really really fun being able to entertain people so easily by doing nothing but speaking one word or phrase. Now it’s not new to me anymore, but to everybody else it’s still exciting and funny every time. I guess this will last for the rest of my life – I hope I will always appreciate it. Anyway – if you visit us in Nampula you will be constantly rewarded if you are able to say something in Macua. I would highly recommend at least learning the following three words:

Ihali? (“E”Holly?) How are you?
Salama I’m fine
Kooshookooroo Thank you

The kids and everybody else will be more than happy to teach you more Macua while you’re here.


Portuguese is the official language in Mozambique and is used everywhere in the country (unlike Macua and other African languages which only exist in the provinces where they originate). Almost every visitor has said they regret not learning more Portuguese before arriving here, so if you plan to visit and have time, try to learn as much as you can now. And make sure you bring a little language dictionary! (The Portuguese in Mozambique is closer to what is spoken in Portugal than to what is spoken in Brazil but it’s no more different than American English vs. British English.)

Here is a list of some words and phrases you will hear most often at the orphanage and around where we live.

Bom dia. • Good morning.
Boa tarde. • Good afternoon.
Boa noite. • Good night.
Obrigado. • Thank you (spoken by males).
Obrigada. • Thank you (spoken by females).
De nada. • You’re welcome.
Ajuda-me. • Help me.
Espera. • Wait.
Tchau. • Good-bye.
Faz favor. • Please.
Desculpe. • Sorry.
Com licença. • Excuse me (to pass by).
Cuidado! • Be careful!
Chega! • That’s enough!
Como está? • How are you?
Estou bem. • I’m fine.
E você? • And you?
Como vai? • How’s it going?
Bem. • Good.
Tudo bem? • All good?
Tudo bem. • All good.
Fala português? • Do you speak Portuguese?
Não. Falo inglês. • No. I speak English.
Fala inglês? • Do you speak English?
Sim. /Não. • Yes./No.
Como se chama? • How do you call yourself?
Chamo-me . . . • I call myself . . .
Quantos anos tem? • How old are you?
Tenho . . . anos. • I am . . . years old.
Você gosta . . . ? • Do you like . . .?
Sim. Eu gosto . . . • Yes. I like . . .
Não. Não gosto . . . • No. I don’t like . . .
Você está pronto/a? • Are you ready?
Estou pronto/a. • I’m ready.
O qué é isto? • What is this?
Como se dice . . . em português? • How do you say . . . in Portuguese?
O que acontaceu? • What happened?
pessoa • person
criança • child
joven • youth
adulto • adult
grande • big
pequeno • small
comida • food
matabicho • breakfast
almoço • lunch
jantar • dinner
arroz • rice
banana • banana
batata • potato
cabrito • goat
carne de vaca • beef
chima • chima
couve • greens
feijão • beans
frango/galinha • chicken
mandioca • cassava
manga • mango
manteiga • butter
milho • corn
pão • bread
papinha • rice porridge
peixe • fish
salada • salad

Two big pronunciation differences in Portuguese (compared with English and Spanish) are:
O at the end of a word makes the “oo” sound (like in zoo).
S makes the “sh” sound (unless it is the first letter of a word).
Obrigado (“Obrigadoo”)
Como vai? (“Comoo vai?”)
Espera (“Eshpeda”)
Desculpe (“Dishcoolp”)
Como está? (“Comoo shtah?”)

1 comment:

momsi/Nonni said...

Thanks for the language lesson. Hope we can use it soon!!Love ya, Cheryl