“Inje nimamang kasanken kujoolaay” is Diola for, “I want to speak Diola!” As we work more and more in villages around Diouloulou that are totally Diola, there is a great need for us to use more Diola to communicate.
But this is easier said than done as Diola has over a dozen different dialects, with some of them being so different from one another as to be unintelligible! We have chosen to focus on Diola-fonyi as this is the dialect most understood. However, because our neighbors and language helpers speak another Diola dialect, we will likely pick up a certain regional “twang” in our Diola.
Unlike learning French, with Diola there are no textbooks, no Rosetta Stone computer programs, nor handy tapes to listen to and repeat. Just a notebook where we write down what we hear, flashcards that we make, and the white family in the village speaking Diola like a two year old! In addition, we have to use our French to communicate with those helping us learn Diola. Needless to say, there are times where we are not sure that we can speak any language at all including English!
Several weeks ago, while wanting to tell my neighbors that I was going to the market to buy something, I mispronounced a vowel and instead told them that I wanted to go to the market and put a curse on someone! Believe me, that will turn some heads. Oh, the joys of language learning!