Soso – “sue sue”
I try to spend at least an hour and a half each day on language training. I’m focusing mostly on Soso, as I have more resources on my computer for that. My resources for French language learning are all internet based, and as I learned in my first week, the internet here is not usable for much beyond sending email, and even that takes a looooong time. Luckily, the French I learned prior to leaving the States has stuck, and the rest I can figure out with my background in Spanish, Latin, and English due to the root similarities of the languages.
So my sit-down and study time is devoted to Susu. My boyfriend, with his many languages on hand, is my preferred teacher, but it’s difficult to get him to sit down for ten minutes, let alone ninety. It’s been five years since he’s been in the country, and the home is a constant parade of long lost family and friends coming by to catch up. That means that he’s usually to be found in the midst of a crowd animatedly telling a story about life in the States or a recent adventure we’ve had here in Guinea.
Lucky for me, there are plenty of other willing teachers on hand! My almost constant companions when I open the computer are a sweet 15 year old who lives in the house directly across from mine, my boyfriend’s 12-year-old nephew and namesake, and a rambunctious 3 year old who likes to bang on the keyboard.
MomodouThe older children have endless patience to repeat words in Susu again and again, slowing down and enunciating this language where words blur together into endless contractions. They giggle and laugh at my attempts to pronounce the language. Words like xaranderaba (teacher) and dçktçri (doctor) flummoxed me until I went back and read closer the section of the Peace Corp language manual I’d previously skimmed over. There, I found a rough sketch of a pronunciation guide, which helped me with the more unfamiliar sounds in the Soso alphabet. Xaranderaba comes out sounding like “harANdraba,” and dçktçri like “dohktohr,” not so different than the word in English. There are other strange letter combinations, like gb with a mostly silent “g,” E, pronounced as a long and emphasized “AY,” and ¯, looking more like punctuation than a letter, yet pronounced “ny.”
With all these challenges, I am happy with how quickly the language is sticking. Perhaps it’s due to the friendliness of the people. It’s almost impossible to walk by somebody here without exchanging the very basic greetings:
Tana mu na? There are not any misfortunes?
Tana yo mu na? No misfortunes.
Denbaya go? And the family?
Tana yo mu a na. Not any misfortunes.
Arabaxati? What’s up?
A mu ra baxati yoki. Everything’s cool.