Thursday, March 4, 2010

Can I Get A Little Wolof?

My Wolof class, with our teacher Sidy (Monsieur in Wolof), who also goes by Q-Tip.

The Wolof language is very, very different from any other language I've learned. While the cadence and sounds of the language itself are unique, the grammar is the part that is most surprising for me.

Actually, Wolof grammar was developed in the last half-century. It was only a spoken language for centuries and most people in Senegal never get the chance to learn Wolof in a classroom. Or even see how it is written. Throughout Senegal, words have their Wolof spelling and their French spelling. In Gambia, they also speak Wolof but they have an English spelling there since Gambia was a British colony formerly. Confusing.

But I've developed a little list just to give you an idea of how different it is. Wolof has:
- 13 kinds of pronouns which place emphasis on all different sorts of things
- Verbs aren't conjugated, but there are lots of prefixes and endings you can add to change the meaning
- Each verb has its own article and its own adverb
- No adjectives
- Numbers only go up to 5

So given all that, you can imagine it's pretty fun to learn. Wolof class is pretty much all questions.

I'll write another post later to give more examples of phrases, etc. For not I'm off to pack for a full weekend in Toubacouta!

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