Luganda Lesson

Here are some super useful sayings from my Luganda phrase book for you to study:

How are you, my friend? | Otyanno munnange?

How much for this goat? | Embuzi eno ogitunda mmeka?

You are a very dirty child. | Oli mu ggulu.

I want to photograph you. | Njagala kukukuba kifaananyi.

Smile a little. | Mwenyamwenyako.

Why do you laugh at me? | Onsekererako ki?

Don’t reply. | Toyanukula.

Do you want to kill me? | Oyagala kunzita?

He is dead! | Afudde!

He is really dead! | Afiiridde ddala!

Dig a grave here and bury him. | Musime wano mumuzike. (Why is this in there?)

You are guilty. You will be imprisoned fourteen days. | Gukusinze. Bakusibe mu Kolokooni ennaku kkumi na nnya.

You’re a humbug. | Olina ekyejo.

So useful, eh?

What is “The What”?

I’ve developed what I can only imagine is a horrible, obnoxious Ugandan accent (unlike, as Kirsten can attest, my knock-out Australian one). Just like when I’m back in Ireland, I know I’ll be understood more quickly in a local accent, so I slip in without thinking. I guarantee it’s better than the one some ex-pats have adopted, but I’m surprised my Ugandan coworkers haven’t smacked me yet when I try to converse. Most often I just get a polite chuckle and curious side-eye.

I’m pretty nervous about getting back to the States next summer, unknowingly maintaining this East African dialect, and thoroughly confusing people. Or getting punched.

My actual adventures into using Luganda, the predominant local language, have been slow. It’s a very tonal language and letters sound different based on what’s around them, but I’m picking some up as I go. My regular boda driver, Sein, giggles every time I try to talk local, but I think he appreciates the effort.

Here are some common words and phrases we’ve gotten to know:

  • Mzungu: First word an ex-pat learns, because you’ll hear it everywhere; it loosely means “white person” and I answer as readily to it as my own name
  • Wanji?: “yes?” or “what?” when someone calls your name; lots of inflection gives this one a lot of impact; coworkers love when I answer this way
  • Banange!: I’ve heard it literally means “Oh, brethren!” but it’s used mostly as an exclamation, like “Oh my!” and “Can you believe it!” Continue reading