Thursday, February 25, 2016

My New Normal


            In coming to Madagascar I had to learn a completely new language which was nothing like any language I had ever heard before.  During the first three months of training we had language training everyday to ensure that we would be able to converse with people once we arrived at our sites.  There are some words that did not have direct translation into English, relate a more direct meaning than the English translation, or are just easier to use than the English words.  In these cases many Volunteers will just use these Malagasy words when speaking English to each other.  It has become our new normal of speaking.  It is so much a new normal that I find myself quite often using
these words when speaking to non volunteer English speakers and will then have to translate my own speech. 
Though these words were easy to incorporate into my regular speech there were others that I swore I would not do…but ended up doing anyways.  These are the words for yes and no.  In my dialect the word for yes is ‘aow’ (pronounced ‘ow’), but many people will just use the colloquial ‘uh uh’ (similar to the American colloquial for no).  I swore that in speaking Malagasy I would only use the true word for yes, ‘aow’, and was successful for a time.  After a while, it is hard to tell when the change came, I switched; I started only using the colloquial form.  Most people use it and it is much easier.  The Malagasy word for no is different.  The official word is ‘tsia,’ but no one ever uses it.  Instead they use the colloquial ‘uh huh’ (similar to the American yes). 
These two words sounding similar to their opposites in English make speaking to other volunteers awkward at times.  It is easy to tell how far into ones service most volunteers are on how they use the English/Malagasy words for yes and no.  When a volunteer is new they will only use the English words when talking to each other.  As they progress in their service and hear the colloquial Malagasy forms used more often it creates a situation where volunteers have to ask each other, “Is that a Gasy yes or an English no?”  It is once the volunteers start using the colloquial forms all the time themselves that it just becomes second nature to use them and expect everyone else also knows what you mean. 

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