I’ve touched on this before. New languages are HARD. No news there. But when your (very lovely) language teacher doesn’t speak any English? Enter 3rd/4th language acquisition in 2nd/3rd language. The proverbial new ball game has begun.
Malagasy. Almost every verb starts with M. Every word ends with a vowel/y, which is normally silent (unless it’s a y) and the letters x, w, u, q, and c, don’t exist. Double-and sometimes triple-negatives are common. There’s no verb “to be”. The subject is at the end of the sentence, and there are loads of compound words- sugar (siramamy) directly translates as sweet salt, and computer (solosaina) is replacement brain! This, however, also means that some words are 18 letters long.
Confused yet? You should be.
There’s also some cultural conversational differences. People often won’t know each other’s names (to the extent of one guy not knowing his wife’s first name until recently. Seriously). Women, once they’ve had a child, become Mama n’y (child), for example two ladies here are Mama n’y Sarafine and Mama n’y Edward – and I’d never ask them otherwise.
One of the doctors asked one of the pharmacy nurses if he was married the other day, to raucous embarrassed laughter from the assembled-that’s certainly not the done thing either!
Even the tiniest scrap of language is useful though. People love it if you try. Being able to thank the wee man at the market, or tell the lady that the mangoes she’s selling are good, or have a very brief, British, moan re: the weather – mafana be n’y andro (it’s roasting) is probably the ex-pat’s most used phrase – meets great approval from the locals. Don’t get me wrong, they’ll laugh directly at you if you mess it up (and sometimes even if you don’t!) but that’s because the Malagasy do a lot of laughing anyway, and that’s not a rude thing here. Takes a bit of getting used to!