Sunday, May 13, 2012

Babu Yetu

Long ago, when I was in college, working on a linguistics degree, I had to take two years of a non-Indo-European language. I chose Kiswahili, in part because I had friend who spoke it and I could practice with him, and partly because the structure of the language fascinated me. Plural nouns are fomed by prefixes, instead of English's "s" suffixes. Nouns that refer to objects that are alive are treated differently from nouns for objects that are and have ever been inanimate.

The Boy and Crash's choral group sang this piece for this final concert and I enjoy seeing if I could follow the Our Father in a language I haven't tried to speak in almost three decades. (For the record - no.)

Baba yetu uliye mbinguni,
Jina lako litukuzwe,
Ufalme wako uje,
Mapenzi yako yatimizwe,
hapa duniani kama huko mbinguni.
Utupe leo riziki yetu.
Utusamehe deni zetu,kama sisi nasi tuwasamehevyo wadeni wetu.
Na usitutie majaribuni,lakini utuokoe na yule mwovu.
Kwa kuwa ufalme ni wako, na nguvu, na utukufu, hata milele.Amina.
(Our Father in Kiswahili)


  1. I've never studied Kiswahili - unfortunately! - but your story reminds me of my experiences working with African refugees earlier in my Jesuit formation. A number of families I worked with were from Rwanda and Burundi but had spent several years in refugee camps in Tanzania before coming to the U.S. and had picked up Kiswahili there. Once, while I was visiting one of these families in their apartment, a boy of about five started speaking to me in Kiswahili (unusually, I should note, as he typically spoke at me in whatever English words he had most recently learned). The boy's father quickly chided him; I could only pick up two of the words he used, but from those two I guessed that the father was saying something like, "He's a mzungu - he doesn't speak kiswahili!"

  2. And here I thought it was only chemistry the whole way--my linguistic major sister would be interested in this!