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Alex Smith

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Love and the Languages of Africa

I love you! I love Africa,continent of 2000 languages. (This depends on the definition of language vs dialect -- usually the estimate is 800 to 2000 languages).<br />
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Africa: Continent of 2000 languages.

The figure of 2000 languages is often cited for Africa, representing about a third of the living languages of the world. A lot depends on how one defines language. Many languages have dialectal variants, and in many cases tongues with different names are so closely related that native speakers can communicate.



Some consider it a hindrance, but one of the things I love about Africa is that it is a continent of 2000 languages—this makes it nothing short of a linguistic world heritage site. There is beauty in diversity if it can be shared, enjoyed and celebrated by all.

The language with the largest number of native speakers in Africa is Arabic – it is the home language of 150 million Africans. Oromo, Yoruba, Hausa, Swahili, Igbo and Amharic are all first languages of more than twenty million people. It disturbs me that at school (in the prime of Apartheid) there was no mention of, let alone an opportunity to study any of these languages. Has it changed, now? I don’t know how well the languages of Africa are represented in the present SA school system. In my opinion all languages (of all continents) are treasures—in their quirks and gems of grammar, vocabulary, sayings and writing systems they reflect so much about the people who speak them.

Carefully read, language could be the best history book of any group or nation. And the collected literature of each language in every age and place is qualitatively more telling than any quantitative official story of facts about a time and people.

In the Orphan’s Lullaby book, there is space for only 50 languages of Africa. It seemed to make sense to choose the official languages of the countries of the African Union and to include a representative selection of ‘un-official’ languages with the greatest number of speakers. When speakers of other languages not on the list have volunteered translations, then those languages have been included too…

Orphan’s Lullaby is hosting an online Facebook event, which has evolved into a community publishing initiative at Book SA.

Love Africa Carnival

Celebrate Africa!

  • The Love Africa Carnival, an online celebration of Africa, continent of 2000 languages, is calling for submissions for the Carnival blog-zine:

  • poems
    paragraphs
    microfiction
    short stories
    comic strips
    fables
    fairytales
    essays
    Captioned photographs
    Illustrated stories

    ON ANY OF THE FOLLOWING THEMES:

    Love Africa
    Past, present or future of Love in Africa
    Place, person, building, book, detail, language, object, insect, animal, or thing, I love in Africa
    The day I love most in in my life so far in Africa/ in the history of Africa
    Spirits, myths and legends of love in Africa
    Sight, sound, touch, taste, or smell I love in Africa
    Love –a story for children of Africa
    Africa–a Grimm-like fairtale of Love


    MONTHLY BOOK PRIZE FOR MOST POPULAR ENTRY

    Very hearty thanks the following authors for supporting the Love Africa Carnival with book prize donations:

  • Michael Ambetchew, Gabeba Baderoon, André Brink,
    Lauren Buekes, Richard De Nooy, Louis Greenberg,
    Liesl Jobson, Sarah Lotz, Jo-anne Richards,
    Henrietta Rose Innes, Ben Trovato
  • Please send submissions to Alex at loveafricacarnival@gmail.com , that are:
    1.Original and unpublished
    2.With author’s full name, place of birth, country of residence and a couple of lines of ‘about the author’ bio.

    SPECIAL REQUEST TO AUTHORS OF AFRICA
    If there are any authors out there who would be willing to donate a signed copy of their book as part of the prize for the Love Africa Carnival at Book SA, your book pledge would be most greatly appreciated.

     

    Recent comments:

    • Ben - Editor
      Ben - Editor
      June 26th, 2008 @16:32 #
       
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      Giving this one a nudge - c'mon BOOK SA members, donate your signed copies!

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    • <a href="http://richarddenooy.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Richard de Nooy</a>
      Richard de Nooy
      June 26th, 2008 @17:08 #
       
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      I'm in. Will try to give you a copy when I'm next in CT.

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    • <a href="http://karinamagdalenaszczurek.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Karina</a>
      Karina
      June 26th, 2008 @21:20 #
       
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      I would love to send you a copy or two, where to? Or could I drop them somewhere in CT?

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    • <a href="http://alexsmith.book.co.za/" rel="nofollow">Alex Smith</a>
      Alex Smith
      June 26th, 2008 @21:27 #
       
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      Fantastic! Thank you Richard for the book pledge and Ben for the nudge, both are sincerely appreciated.

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    • <a href="http://alexsmith.book.co.za/" rel="nofollow">Alex Smith</a>
      Alex Smith
      June 26th, 2008 @21:51 #
       
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      Thank you so much Karina -- that would be absolutely wonderful. I'm outside of Cape Town at the moment, but I will happily collect the book when I'm in town or if you prefer you could send it to my town postal address: PO Box 44 Wyberg 7824.

      Thank you again, Karina, Richard and Ben, it's so great to get support like this.

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    • <a href="http://alexsmith.book.co.za/" rel="nofollow">Alex Smith</a>
      Alex Smith
      June 27th, 2008 @08:58 #
       
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      Ben Trovato -- A splendid addition to the 'Love Africa' prize.

      I just received this email:

      Hi Alex,
      Nice project. I can donate one of my so-called books towards the prize, if you like. Is there a postal address I can use?
      Good luck!
      Ben Trovato

      --
      Thank you Ben!

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    • <a href="http://sarahlotz.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Sarah Lotz</a>
      Sarah Lotz
      June 27th, 2008 @10:33 #
       
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      Alex - I'll happily post you a copy of my novel.

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    • <a href="http://www.moxyland.com" rel="nofollow">Lauren Beukes</a>
      Lauren Beukes
      June 27th, 2008 @10:40 #
       
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      Sign me up! Maverick + Moxyland or either or. But I'm gonna insist on doing the exchange in person over a tasty caffeinated beverage.

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    • <a href="http://imago.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Sophy</a>
      Sophy
      June 27th, 2008 @11:36 #
       
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      I would, too, love to donate a signed copy of my book. It's a real pity I haven't written one. Yet.

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    • <a href="http://alexsmith.book.co.za/" rel="nofollow">Alex Smith</a>
      Alex Smith
      June 29th, 2008 @20:45 #
       
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      A jaaraamah! Sarah and Lauren, many, many thanks for this --I'm sorry I didn't respond sooner, my internet has been down since Friday. A tasty caffeinated beverage is an excellent idea...when and where do you fancy? Anyone else up for the caffeine exchange?

      "Amani, Upendo, Umoja. Peace, Love, Unity"

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    • <a href="http://alexsmith.book.co.za/" rel="nofollow">Alex Smith</a>
      Alex Smith
      June 29th, 2008 @20:48 #
       
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      Sophy are you on Facebook? How about contributing a picture of an aspect of Africa that you love to the Love Africa Carnival? http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=39779161392&ref=mf (I'm not sure if that link will work -- if you email me at alexinchina@gmail.com , I'll send you the invitation.)

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    • <a href="http://liesljobson.bookslive.co.za" rel="nofollow">Liesl</a>
      Liesl
      June 29th, 2008 @22:06 #
       
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      Will send you one too. Terrific idea.

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    • <a href="http://henriettaroseinnes.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Henrietta</a>
      Henrietta
      June 29th, 2008 @22:14 #
       
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      Hey Alex - great idea, would be delighted to contribute a book. Mebbe 'Nice Times!' cause it's a compilation of many S African writers not just me (and because it would be nice if someone read the damn thing)? I'm away for the next 2 weeks or so but if it's not too late after that I can get it to you in person.

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    • <a href="http://imago.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Sophy</a>
      Sophy
      June 29th, 2008 @23:53 #
       
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      Yes, Alex, I am on Facebook and the linked worked. Thanks. I will try my best to come up with some sort of picture though I am by no means an artist...here's to participating. Cool.

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    • <a href="http://www.moxyland.com" rel="nofollow">Lauren Beukes</a>
      Lauren Beukes
      June 30th, 2008 @06:34 #
       
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      So anyone else up for a mini book.co.za rendezvous book handover in Cape Town for a good cause and a caffeine fix?

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    • <a href="http://www.moxyland.com" rel="nofollow">Lauren Beukes</a>
      Lauren Beukes
      June 30th, 2008 @06:43 #
       
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      (ignoring my terrible pre-caffeine fix sentence construction)

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    • <a href="http://louisgreenberg.com" rel="nofollow">Louis Greenberg</a>
      Louis Greenberg
      June 30th, 2008 @09:15 #
       
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      The Johannesburg quorum's also going to have a coffee-party, so there! In fact, I'm going to the kettle right now.

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    • <a href="http://www.moxyland.com" rel="nofollow">Lauren Beukes</a>
      Lauren Beukes
      June 30th, 2008 @10:00 #
       
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      Thanks Louis, I'll have a latte (and one for Moxy)

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    • <a href="http://alexsmith.book.co.za/" rel="nofollow">Alex Smith</a>
      Alex Smith
      June 30th, 2008 @10:11 #
       
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      Galatoomi Henrietta and Liesl, thank you very much. Henrietta, 'Nice Times!' would be perfect.

      Volim te.
      Volim Afriku.
      (I believe that's Croatian for I love you! I love Africa.)

      Ah, I can't resist it, now I'm going to the kettle too, but Green Tea is my caffeine-fix. Cheers Louis.

      Let the caffeine parties begin!

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    • <a href="http://louisgreenberg.com" rel="nofollow">Louis Greenberg</a>
      Louis Greenberg
      June 30th, 2008 @10:16 #
       
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      No lattes, alas, Lauren, and Moxy's sitting on my shelf, teeth out, threatening to turn all gremlin on my ass. Do you think he'll prefer Ricoffy, Frisco or Nescafe? (Someone ate all the Jacobs.) The milk has grease spots floating on it.

      No wonder nothing gets done in this office.

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    • <a href="http://louisgreenberg.com" rel="nofollow">Louis Greenberg</a>
      Louis Greenberg
      June 30th, 2008 @10:22 #
       
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      Oh, PS - Alex, my book's snailing its way to you for the prize.

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    • <a href="http://sarahlotz.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Sarah Lotz</a>
      Sarah Lotz
      June 30th, 2008 @11:45 #
       
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      Count me in for an americano. Shall try and drink it and not use the drip containing Nescafe that's normally attached to my arm.

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    • <a href="http://www.moxyland.com" rel="nofollow">Lauren Beukes</a>
      Lauren Beukes
      June 30th, 2008 @12:23 #
       
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      Whatever you do, Louis, don't feed him after midnight. If the getting wet thing works though, do let me know - will save the Montagu Sew & Sew seamstresses a whole bunch of time and effort.

      Sarah, nescafe - pffft! I can see the sludge in your drip from here. That's not instant, that's the toxic rocket fuel straight from the bar.

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    • <a href="http://alexsmith.book.co.za/" rel="nofollow">Alex Smith</a>
      Alex Smith
      June 30th, 2008 @14:36 #
       
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      Grazie, Louis, as they might say in Somalia -- thank you very much. It's not quite a latte or an espresso, but it's Italian: Ti amo! Amo L'Africa.

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    • <a href="http://karinamagdalenaszczurek.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Karina</a>
      Karina
      June 30th, 2008 @17:42 #
       
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      Hi Alex, I also sent the promised parcel - registered :)

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    • <a href="http://alexsmith.book.co.za/" rel="nofollow">Alex Smith</a>
      Alex Smith
      July 1st, 2008 @09:07 #
       
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      aw ni sógóma (Good morning in Bambara)
      i ni cé , thank you so much, Karina!
      i ni cé , Liesl Jobson for pledging '100 papers'
      i ni cé, Michael Ambatchew, in Ethopia, for just this morning pledging an English version of one of his celebrated children's books.

      I love you! I love Africa
      n'b'i fè! n'b'i Afriki

      (I just found a very useful phrase: wuli an ka ta thé mé
      get up and let's get some tea ... excellent idea)

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    • <a href="http://alexsmith.book.co.za/" rel="nofollow">Alex Smith</a>
      Alex Smith
      July 4th, 2008 @16:30 #
       
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      Louis' novel for the prize just arrived -- it's signed with a great message ... 'Africa is a continent large enough to contain all of us -- in everything you do, make it home. Louis'

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    • <a href="http://alexsmith.book.co.za/" rel="nofollow">Alex Smith</a>
      Alex Smith
      July 10th, 2008 @13:25 #
       
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      Excellent news for the Love Africa Carnival --

      Wordman Fred Hatman has organised for the ‘love Africa picture’ event to be featured in the Cape Times and the Jellybean Journal – hopefully this will result it wider participation, particularly of children. Jairuhjef, Wordman Fred.

      Pan Macmillan embraces the spirit of the Love Africa Carnival and is interested in sponsoring prizes for the children who win the Jellybean Journal part of the Carnival. We are still working out the details, but if all goes well, hopefully the prizes will come from Pan Macmillan’s Giraffe Books. Lara Cohen of Pan Macmillan said, ‘I’d suggest Giraffe Books list to draw prizes from. That way if Jellybean journal finds out the home language of the winning child, we can supply the book in the appropriate language.’ The Pan Macmillan website explains that: ‘‘Celebrating southern Africa's vast cultural diversity, Giraffe Books is the first imprint to publish children's books in all 11 of South Africa 's official languages, as well as Portuguese.’ That sounds fantastic! Jairuhjef, thank you for your interest in the project, Lara and Pan Macmillan.

      As soon as I’ve shaken the dragon dust from my coat, I will set about telling children (of every age) across Africa about the Love Africa Carnival. Suggestions are welcome for cunning ideas on how best to get the word out around the continent…

      The prize for the grown-up winner of the Love Africa Carnival is growing:

      This afternoon I’m off to collect Karina’s book pledge from the post office – Jairuhjef, Karina.

      Ben Trovato’s ‘On the Run’ arrived in the post yesterday. Signed for whoever the winner will be: ‘To someone very special. The struggle continues! All the best, Ben Trovato’. Jairuhjef, Ben.

      Via Facebook, Jo-Anne Richards has pledged ‘My Brother’s Book’ and said ‘I’m happy to be involved in such a nice project.’ Thank you, Jairuhjef, Jo-Anne.

      I love you!I love Africa – continent of 2000 languages.
      Ndyani! Ndyani Thanda iAfrika!

      Good afternoon, Jamm nga yendoo (as they say in Wolof in Senegal) and Asalaam Alaikum

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    • <a href="http://alexsmith.book.co.za/" rel="nofollow">Alex Smith</a>
      Alex Smith
      July 25th, 2008 @10:37 #
       
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      From Writers for Ethiopian Children and Michael Ambatchew, I have just received in the post ‘Alnegam: Stories for Children’ to add to the Love Africa Carnival prize. It’s a bilingual book in English and Amharic. The Amharic parts are in Amharic script, which is very interesting see. Although it is beautiful it seems to me more difficult to understand than Chinese…

      Amharic is spoken by 27 million people in Africa.

      Here from the Omiglot web page (http://www.omniglot.com/writing/amharic.htm) is some Amharic script -- I wonder if this will come out…

      Oh, no it doesn't...oh dear, well if you go to the link you'll see the Amharic script for the following:

      Transliteration
      Yä-säw lïj hullu siwwäläd näs'a-nna bä-kïbrïnna bä-mäbtïm ïkkulïnnät y-alläw näw yä-täfät'ro yä-mastäwalïnna hïlinaw sïlalläw andu lelawn bä-wändïmamacïnnät mänfäs mämälkät yä-gäbbawal.

      Translation
      All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
      (Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)

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