So, I've been busy. I've been writing business plans and grant proposals, and plotting and scheming on how to turn youth into plotting and scheming entrepreneurs, and, of course, computer solitaire. This is all good, and I feel productive (except for the computer solitaire, but it does promote problem-solving skills), but I haven't had much time or will to study the language.
Oh, it's so easy not to study. Most people know English. Although Northern Sotho is spoken by 4 million people, all of them live in one general region in South Africa, it doesn't count for another language when applying to Johns Hopkins PhD program in international development, I'm not good at learning languages, etc., etc. However, what I learned in Japan, and again learning kiSwahili in Kenya and Tanzania, is that nothing gives you more insight into another culture than by learning the language. Plus, everyone at the office is bugging me to learn it. So, I'm learning. Or, as they say, "Ke a ithuta."
I found this great website that has an online Northern Sotho dictionary, with some audio files attached to some words (http://africanlanguages.com/sdp/ for those of you who are interested), so I was going through the "hl" words trying to find a good audio example. It's a tricky, lispy sound that I often confuse with the tricky, lispy sound of "tl" and I wanted to tell the difference. As I was going through my dictionary, I found the word "hlamukela" meaning to besmear one's mouth. Now, my English has gone to hell, but I can't ever remember using the word "besmear" even though I vaguely know what it means. But to besmear one's mouth? What does that mean? So, I enter the word in the handy-dandy online dictionary and find this: "besmear one's mouth and hands with fat when eating."
This is now my new favorite word.
And, you know what, it does say something about a culture that has a word that means to besmear one's mouth and hands with fat when eating. I don't know how much the word is used, but that word exists. And what it means about the culture is that people eat with their hands and eat a lot of meat, meat with fat that can be besmeared. And yes, I have experienced that result. I live here after all. I just didn't know there was a word for it.