I had been saying the local language wrong for about a month. It’s run-yan-ko-le, or quickly: ruankole. It shares roots and phrases with Lugandan, the larger tribe language of central uganda, but tribes are tribes, so it’s different.
We went to a course called LAMP three weeks ago every day after school from 145-600. We each paid a local to help us practice our language during this time. My friend was Justus, who is a helping hand around Dale and Mike’s compounds. An expert cow-milker who studied biology and is applying to be a nurse.
During lamp we would discuss the philosophy of language in ministry, go over phonics and language learning techniques, go out into the villages with a white team mate to practice, and then meet our language helpers in a big happy group to learn new terms and record them on our computers.
The new philosophy to me was: if the locals that we are around and ministering to do not see our visit as good news, or are not excited that we are here, there’s no way they will listen to what we or the bible have to say. So it’s a different posture than I was expecting: one of allowing myself to be vulnerable and to show them I need them, to help me learn their language, and in all other practical ways. I am not here to be the white, western dominator.
Also: listen / learn / serve / speak. I should only speak after many of the other things have happened first.
My favorite part of the course was going into the “dukas”, little shops that are very rural and just sitting around in the countryside. Stephen and I would walk, sometimes with Justus to translate for us, until we got to a place selling bananas or tea or muffins or whatever, and we’d go in to try all our phrases and humiliate ourselves. Here’s how it would go.”
H: in bad runyankole “Hello, how are you, i am called Harrison, I am from america. I know a little runyankole but i want to learn more. slowly please.”
Locals: huge burst of laughter
H: in runyankole “Can you tell me what this is called?” picking up a food we don’t even have in the states
Locals: “Mohogo e enenanse”
H: “oh i should have known…”
Stephen: “No english Harrison.”
H: “oh yeah.” In runyankole again ” what are you doing today?”
Locals: and then a deluge of other foods and words I don’t understand
H: “thanks for that.”
Even though there were many laughs, I learned a lot and it’s still a highlight of my day every time i go into a duka. While my fluency is crap at best, the people here always light up when they hear that I know more than the average muzungu tourist. I intend to learn as much as I can.