Last week I spent a few days working with a man called Julius, to record a basic word-list is his mother-tongue, Simbiti.
We used a 51-page list of Simbiti words which had been collected and written down a number of years ago, but never recorded.
First Julius and I checked through 2 pages at a time, making sure he agreed with how the Simbiti word was written down, but also checking that it had been given the correct Swahili translation.
Finding a correct translation was quite difficult at times. One word we discussed was ‘ukusiighiitya’, which means to rub something lightly. However Julius was not happy with the Swahili words given; one ‘kuchua’ means to rub roughly or to chafe, and the other ‘kusugua’ means to clean something by rubbing or to scrub. Julius therefore asked me what the English word given was, and I apologetically explained that it was simply ‘to rub’! We didn’t manage to come up with a suitable Swahili translation; I’m still thinking on it.
We also had fun discussing a number of words to do with blowing:
- ‘ukuhuuta’ means simply ‘to blow’.
- ‘ukughwesya’ means ‘to blow something causing it to fall or drop’ (which Julius explained was different to ‘to blow something down’ – ‘ukuhuuta keghwe hanse’).
- ‘okohaanyora’ describes the wind blowing the thatch of a roof.
After checking through two pages, we then recorded those words; Julius repeated each word 2 or 3 times each.
We did the recording in our little recording studio here at the office. There’s a main room with a desk, where I sat with my laptop and recording equipment. Julius sat in the next-door room, which is very well insulated against outside noises. There were some small holes in the connecting wall, through which I threaded the wires from his microphone to my recorder!
So now we have over 1800 words recorded in the Simbiti language! This is really helpful for us when we are analysing the sounds in the language. It is also helpful for other linguists who are interested in the languages here.
(Now all that remains is for me to cut and edit the sound files … so far I’m 6 pages down!)
I thank God for willing, friendly, helpful people like Julius who are passionate about their languages.
Aren’t languages amazing in their variety?! How wonderful of God to create us with some of his creativity and innovation in us!