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Notes from the Field

Call Me Ishmael

 

 

 February 12, 2018            Written by Mbp Volunteer, Josh           KAFS, Madagascar 

 

 

 

Hello. My name is Joshua. You can call me Josh. Or not. This is an electronic message that will be put on a website, or not, who’s to know. I will type and send this to another who may or may not post this. Like Schroedinger’s Cat, I just don’t know, but I digress.

I am from Calmar, Iowa, United States of America. If you’re from Calmar, although it is spelled c-a-l-m-a-r, we pronounce it [kâlmr].

And looking back on my experience so far here in Madagascar, one thing that has really stuck out or at least come up time and time again is the different ways we say or call things…

The group of volunteers I am working with during the first cohort of 2018 is a wide variety. There are two from the United States, one from Canada, one from England, one from Poland, and one who is from the United States but has been living in Antananarivo for the past couple years. Even between us six, who can speak English fairly well, there is some confusion when we talk about certain topics. A perfect example is the word pants. To most of us it is the clothing item worn on the bottom half of the body and extends near if not all the length of the legs. Simple. Easy. Pants. However, the one from England calls them trousers. Pants to her are what we call underwear. The Canadian gets after we from the United States because of the way we pronounce the “ou” in words like house, mouse, about, etc. Apparently, we pronounce the “ou” in some of those word like we would “ow”: howse, mowse, abowt, etc.

I just accredit the way I speak to my regional accent, but depending on who you talk to back home, they might say I talk differently from them. I don’t know. I talk the way I talk.

Reflecting on this language “fence,” it may not be the best when teaching those from Madagascar how to speak English. I didn’t say barrier because it isn’t stopping us from understanding what we mean, just tripping us up a bit. We have all of these accents and pronunciations to say the same thing. Like the name of my hometown, those not from Calmar say it like it’s spelled, whereas we say it without the second ‘a’.

How can one learn to say something, if those teaching say it multiple ways? I guess they’ll just have too figure it out. It’s all we got. That’s what I am doing when they teach me Malagasy. I am learning simple words and phrases right now, but when it comes to actual conversation, everything seems rushed. I even asked some of them one time if they drop syllables when they speak to each other. The one I asked blatantly said yes.

So there’s that.

How can you learn to speak a language when they don’t speak all of it?

One step at a time, I guess.

 

 

 

 

 

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