A Lesson in Language

Christopher LaBorde - Senegal

March 12, 2013

This one’s for you Kavy.


When you’re in a place where you don’t speak your first language, you kind of have to think about what you say. What you want to say, how you’re going to say it, How you can say it. You probably do this normally, at least a little bit, but when you’re speaking French, or Pulaar, you reeally gotta think about it.

Being here has been making me think a lot about language. Similarities, and differences between the languages of continents on opposite sides of the world, but also idiosynchrosies and small links between words within a single language.

Here are a few of my Language Observations:

  • “Butter-Fly’s” definitely started out being called “Flutter-By’s”
  • The similarities between the words “Word” and “World” in English, and “Mot” (Moh) and “Monde”in French (Same words, different languages). Words are spoken by the world, and Mots are spoken by the Monde
  • In Pulaar, Nuk is the word for “Place”. Nuks and Crannies. Or crooks and nannies.
  • Jesus Christ—Jesus Crossed—Christopher LaBorde 😉
  • Good God Evil Devil
  • Sheperd= Sheep herd(er)
  • Fluent= Flowing (Is your English flowing?)

In Pulaar:

  • Hirsugol- To slit someone/something’s throat
  • Heersugol- To have shame (maybe from slitting someone’s throat)
  • Heetugol- To reep grass (Cut the grass’s throat)
  • Hebugol (to have). I heb=I have
  • Wannyugol- To hunt

Wannyo-The kitchen

  • lewru-moon/month (1 month=1 moon cycle)


Language can reflect a culture’s attitude

Fr: Il faut chercher un baton- Go look for a stick

Eng: Go find a stick

Us/Those French, never getting anything done

  • In Pulaar (and Hawai’ian, and probably many other languages) there are 2 ways to say “We”, there’s an inclusive form and an exclusive form.

It let’s the person you’re talking to know if they’re involved or not. Gets some of the awkwardness out of the way

And it’s always fun to hear some proverbs, remind yourself of some essential wisdoms. Here are some in Pulaar, a lot of them match up.


Pulaar Proverbs/Funsies:

  • Nyalude takkade mayo, no buri dawude yolaade — Taking a whole day to find a river crossing is better than swimming across and drowning
  • Si dow no wellno, wandu jipotaako — If it’s nice up there, the monkey won’t come down
  • Wandu no dojay, kono haartataako — A  monkey can cough, but it can’t spit
  • Legal ko boyi ka nder ndiyan yo, wontaata nora — No matter how long a log sits in the water, it will never be a crocodile
  • Toubagko, boyi ka nder saare baalejo, wontaata baalejo — No matter how long a white person stays in an African village, he will never become an African (black).
  • Nyoru Nyoru, no buri hokkere — A drizzle is better than a drought (A little is better than nothing)
  • Pulo Pereejo, mo nyamataa kossang si paddan — The Original Pulo won’t eat curdled cows milk if he has to buy it. (The pulaar are known to be cow people, sheperds, and take pride in their hospitality)
  • Kho Fonioh miji wo, Takku no andi — What millet thinks, okra knows
  • Wandu, o yaraata eh fandu fabru, fabru o yaraata eh fandu wandu — A monkey won’t drink from a frog’s cup, and a frog won’t drink from a monkey’s cup.
  • Hunduko leeydang maaro  — The mouth is too low for rice ( It should be on the top of the head so you have more room to fill up)
  • Kikalare, wakalare deeyda jungo boonana maafe — Old person, reeally old person, your arm wrinkles really like peanut sauce
  • Almudo, si hida jangindemo, a marinaymo leki waure — A student, if you are teaching him, you should save a remedy for mockery (Don’t teach your students Everything you know, always save something)


Thank You. Merci. A Jaarama

Christopher LaBorde