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English, French, or Bambara: Which language do we speak today?

In Mali, the rain can start without warning. One day, while walking back from the cafe, Kavitha and I got stuck in it. Luckily, before we got too wet, a man named Saouty was kind enough to stop and offer us a ride. Saouty is one of the friendliest Malians we've met so far! He speaks French and wants to learn English, too.

Since Kavitha and I wanted to learn more French and Saouty wanted to learn English, we decided to teach each other. For our first lesson, we exchanged greetings. He said, "Vous pouvez parler en francais, et je vais parler en anglais," which means "You can speak in French, and I will speak in English." And that's what we did!

Saouty understood English pretty well, but he got confused by some of our American expressions like "break a leg" (for "good luck") and "until our heads started to spin" (for "crazy or confusing"). Sometimes, the things we say don't make sense. Can you think of any other expressions you use that would be confusing to a foreigner?

Later that evening, I asked Dabel to talk in the three languages she knows: English, French, and Bamako, the language most widely spoken here. Listen to her voice in the attached wave file. Can you believe that there are more than 32 official languages in Mali? Wow.


Jasmine- Rain, Rain Go Away

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