Posted by: Lisa | May 25, 2012

Diving In

Despite English being Zambia’s official “national language”, I knew when we moved to the Eastern Province that it would be extremely helpful to learn the local tribal language of Chewa.

Chewa (or chichewa) is actually much more than just “the local tribal language”. It’s the national language of bordering Malawi; it is fairly prevalent in the northern part of  bordering Mozambique;  and beyond being spoken very widely across this section of Zambia it is sister language to “Nyanja”, a language spoken in another large portion of Zambia. All in all, if you’re going to live anywhere around this section of Africa, Chewa would come in very handy. 🙂

Our move last August left me nearly dizzy with duties. Even though I’ve lived in Africa since 2006, there are always adjustments to new areas. (Especially if the new area is more rural!) And at the time of our move, I was still adjusting to having 3 children, 4 and under. (Those of you with 3 children 2 and under can laugh at me now!) Shortly after our move, I started K5 with our oldest which began another slew of adjustments to our routine. Then intense, purposeful load-shedding began… It just seemed like each new month caused something new to pop up and demand a bit of readjustment.

We have now lived in “Chewa Land” for about 9 months, and I still haven’t gotten much past “muli bwanji” and “zikomo”. (“How are you” and “Excuse me/thank you.”) It’s not coming naturally simply by living here. And, obviously, my days aren’t eventually going to smooth out and  extra time  be  waiting for me to fill with language studies. Especially with our 4th child on the way!

So, I’ve decided it’s something I have to make time for. I know that sounds simple. 🙂

This past week has found me with an open book during the kids’ naptime, studying Noun Classes, moving on to Lesson 2 (!) in my book, and trying expand my very limited vocabulary. In the later evenings I try to take a few minutes to work on translating phrases- then I take my sheet to Damon and watch him mark it all up with a red pen. 🙂 It’s how we learn, right!? (I have to insert here- one advantage to waiting a few months before beginning my studies is that Damon now has a major head start. He is so helpful and patient with my slow progress, and is always able to help explain something. Handy, no?! 🙂 )

Please pray for me as I take baby steps toward learning this language!



  1. Oh, I feel your pain as we have started trying to learn some Hebrew while in Israel. It is like starting all over again…. ugh! Not easy, but we’ve gotta hang in there!

    • Hebrew sounds difficult! They read in a different direction! I thought Chewa was hard b/c it’s not a Latin-based language, but at least we still read across the page the same direction! 🙂

  2. Aww Lisa… it might sound odd to say this but _I’m proud of you!_ 🙂 And, by the way, you still have beautiful handwriting. Remember those gel pens you used to carry around with you to lessons? 🙂

    • Ah, gel pens! They were quite the rage! 🙂 And you’re kind about my handwriting- I know it’s gotten much sloppier as the years go by! Thanks for the encouragement! Or should I say- “Zikomo”! 😉

  3. Ken and the boys (and to a certain extent, the whole family) learned a little Romanian by listening to language-learning tapes before they went to Brasov with the group from Old Paths in 2007. They got better because they spoke the phrases to each other at home. To this day, it pops up in conversation (the please, thank you, time, etc.). Using it at home is fun and the kids actually get it faster than the parents. 🙂 Do your children pick it up from the children at church?

    • The kids do pick up bits and pieces from being out. Then they come to us and ask, “What does ___ mean?” I can’t help, so I think that’s hindered them. We’re incorporating phrases into our daily life, so I think that will help them “hear” it better- and us, too!

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