Friday, May 29, 2009

On Language....

Hey, everyone ! I hope you’re all doing well. Things here have slowed down quite a bit (who knew that was possible ?). We have closed the center for the summer, I don’t really do that much work. I’ve been spending most of time reading, hanging with my fam, and of course, causing some mischief with my fellow Americans.

But anyway, to get to the point of this blog entry...I have a quick note on language. One of the great yet challenging things about Mauritania is the diversity here. In my house alone, there are Moors, Pulaars, Bombaras, Wolofs, and of course, me, the American. On a daily basis, I have conversations in English, French, and Hassaniya. Even more than that, people love it when you greet them in their native language, so on an average day, I greet people in five languages. Kind of crazy.

I was discussing this with my site mate, Edna, and we realized that Americans and Mauritanians feel very differently about language. Here in Kiffa, everyone can greet in Hassaniya, and can also probably do a basic greeting in French. Yet, even though they know I don’t speak Pulaar or Wolof or whatever other language they may speak, they insist that I greet them in their native tongue. With strangers, they expect us to look at them walking down the street and know what language to speak to them in. However, this is the opposite in America. As Edna and I were discussing, if I saw someone walking down the street and greeted them with a nice, friendly, “hola”, they would most likely be insulted. Why am I greeting them in Spanish? Is it because I am making an assumption just by looking at them that they are Hispanic? Or would it be my way of saying that I don’t think they are intelligent enough to learn English?

This is, of course, just one of many differences I have noticed since coming here, but it is also one of the biggest. In America, we are focused on creating unity between cultures. Here, people love to celebrate their differences. Both ways have their trade-offs.

I guess that’s all from here. I’ll be home in a little over a month! Yay! I’ll try to get some pictures posted soon. I hope you’re all enjoying the summer weather.

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