Oshikwanyama/cultural note

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  • Greet first before asking or saying anything, even in a shop or on the telephone.
  • Always take time and shake hands when greeting.
  • Always greet elders first.
  • When greeting, females should bend their knees and males should nod their heads.
  • Greeting passersby is considered very polite. It is often expected in the villages, but in town it is not necessary.
  • It is normal for the person who comes to a group of people to initiate greeting.
  • Words like Meme (mother), Tate (father), and especially Meekulu (grandmother) and Tatekulu (grandfather) show respect and are just as important as the greeting itself.
  • Touch your right elbow to show extra respect.
  • Literally, if someone says Wa lele po, they are asking if you laid down last night. Wa uhala po asks if you spent the afternoon, and wa tokelwa po asks if the sky became white for you at dusk. For the record, the answer is always Ehee.

Grammar Corner: Personal Pronouns

In English, we have three different persons: I, you, and he/she/it, as well as their plural counterparts: we, you all, and they. It is very similar in Oshikwanyama:

English Oshikwanyama
I Ame
You Ove
He/She Ye
We Fye
You all Nye

Oshikwanyama makes no distinction between “he” and “she” – they are both referred to as ye.Quick TipNgaa and tuu are used quite often for emphasis and carry a meaning similar to “really” or “rather”.

Omukwanyama ta ti:~ Okuti kwa dala. ~The forest has delivered (you).(Welcome home, after a long journey.)

Grammar Corner: Numbers

One Imwe
Two Mbali
Three Nhatu
Four Nhee
Five Nhano
Six Hamano
Seven Heyali
Eight Hetatu
Nine Omuwoi
Ten Omulongo
Eleven (Ten and one) Omulongo na imwe
Twelve (Ten and two) Omulongo nambali
Twenty (Two tens) Omilongo mbali
Twenty-five (Two tens and five) Omilongo mbali nanhano
Thirty (Three tens) Omilongo nhatu
One hundred Efele
Two hundred Omafele avali
Three hundred HundredOmafele atatu
One thousand Eyovi
Two thousand Omayovi avali

Counting things (e.g. two goats, fifteen people) is a bit trickier, and is explained in Grammar Corner: Counting. The Oshikwanyama number Omafele avali (two hundred) literally means "two hundreds".

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