I’m still on my two-week Kiswahili course with just two days to go. It has been tough, very intensive, so many word have been read, written and spoken to me and I can proudly announce that I have retained about 20% of them. I now understand the system of the grammar but can’t really use it in practice although I know it in theory.
I want to have a serious chat with whoever said that Kiswahili is an easy language to learn; the person clearly didn’t know what they were talking about. OK, words are written as they are pronounced, there are few exceptions (but they are there) and you can count to 1 million knowing only 21 words but then the fun stops. THERE ARE 7-8 NOUN CLASSES. Remember in Spanish: el or la. That means Spanish has two noun classes, Kiswahili has 8!!! And the noun class changes the verb, the pronoun, the adjective…basically the whole sentence changes completely from noun class to noun class. It is tough.
I am still with the same Kiswahili teacher and upon teaching me the word “strict” she asked me if Lisa was strict with the children. I said, “not particularly.”
“Do you hit them?” She wanted to know. “I have heard that wazungu (white people) don’t hit their children.”
“That is true,” I explained, “it is actually illegal.”
Illegal...after several moments of laughter…the conversation continued. I tried to bring the normal arguments to the table. If you don’t believe people should hit each other people then why make the exception with your children and blah, blah. “But I want my child to behave”, she argued. After about 10 minutes of me trying politely to convey a none-hitting message, she says: “But I will still hit my son!” We left the subject and I was not really pushing her. I know the culture here, but I just wanted her to know the basic arguments against hitting children.
Today the topic came up again, maybe because I couldn’t remember the noun (to be strict). She told me that she believed in corporate punishment in schools. Remember the lady is 29 years old. “It is ok if they hit me (or somebody) with a stick over my hands. What I didn’t like was one teacher made me sit outside in the sun where I continuously had to ask the sun to come down to me while moving my hands up and down. It was so hot, I got so tired and it was embarrassing because everybody could see me (I think this punishment is used for students that talk/chat in class). But hitting my hands five times with a stick is OK.”
Later today she told me about when her father would hit her. I said that in my country that if anybody would use a “tool” to hit their children they would be regarded as crazy. “Oh my father used to tell me to go out and find a stick he could hit me with. I would find a small stick and bring it to him. He would then tell me, do you really think this stick can punish you enough after what you have done? He would then go out and find a larger stick.
All the above I kind of knew already from living in Kenya. Towards the end of the day she must have reflected on our conversation when she said. “Maybe if I knew of a family that did not hit their children I would know that there is another option that could work. But I don’t know anybody that doesn’t hit their children.”
Well, now she knows me!