This is what a conversation in Swahili sounds like to me at the moment (translated into English):
… … BUT … … SO … … BECAUSE … …
I pick up almost all the conjunctions and ‘joining words’, so I can follow the flow of a conversation. I know when someone is giving a reason or making a contrast or explaining a logical consequence. I have the structure and tone of a conversation.
But only a very basic idea of what the conversation is actually about! I might pick up the odd word and that gives me a ballpark, but from there it’s pretty much guess work and context clues.
Like many languages, you can reach a critical mass of verbs pretty quickly.
So sometimes, when people don’t speak too fast, a conversation sounds like this:
He wants her to drive … BUT she said “…” SO you need to … BECAUSE he can’t …
Nouns far outnumber verbs so while I might know that someone’s asking me to do something, and giving a reason, I might only have the faintest idea of what it is they want me to do! That’s a matter of vocab and hearing as much Swahili as we can.
As our tutor says, ‘kidogo kidogo’ – little by little!
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.