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Nahuatl Mission Accomplished


Another language mission has come to a close: Conversational Nahuatl in Four Months!

I was travelling in a Nahuatl-speaking part of Mexico during the last week of November, and based on how well I met my goals, I would say it was a success. I wasn’t too sure before the trip–my plans to speak Nahuatl with my neighbours every other day fell apart as more pressing duties commandeered my time, but nevertheless I can say that my experience in Mexico was very much enhanced by my speaking Nahuatl.

One of my goals was to preach a sermon in Nahuatl, and that was accomplished in La Soledad, Mpio. Tamazunchale, S.L.P. I relied quite a bit on my outline and notes, but when I think about it, it was comparable to the first time I preached in Spanish, and I believe that the message from God’s word was heard and understood.

I had a few minor goals as well, and one was not met, but the main one, although nebulous, was to be able to speak Nahuatl at a “conversational level.” I define this as being able to carry a conversation beyond “Hi, how are you?” I did this, and I was able to visit with several elderly people in Nahuatl. Although I did not understand everything they said, it was enough to carry on the conversation. Some of these people spoke very little Spanish, and all of them were more comfortable speaking Nahuatl, so I say that that part of the mission was accomplished. Read More

Back from Mexico

I have returned from the land of banana trees and iridescent butterflies, the land of the Huastec and Nahuatl-speaking Indians, and I am happy to report that the trip went very well, and that my father and I have returned home safely. If you’ve been watching the news lately, you’ll surely know that there’s quite a bit of conflict going on along the border of Mexico right now, and although we did see some drug cartel members along the highway in northern Tamaulipas, we got past unscathed, knowing that God was with us the whole time (although it is rather disturbing to see people with guns in Mexico who are neither military or police). As for the Huasteca Potosina, the area where we spent the week, things are much more peaceful there.

As always, a week was not enough, but I was just thankful that I was able to return there again after two and a half years absence. It was a time of renewing old friendships and making new ones, and I was also able to practice speaking Nahuatl. Most of my attempts at carrying on a conversation ended when the person with whom I was speaking uttered a sentence that went past my ears uncomprehended, and then I would resort to Spanish. I probably could have done better, but I am pleased with my progress, and of course everyone was tickled pink that I was learning their language. The Huastec dialect remains a mystery to me, but as we met a good number of Huastec people on this trip, they endeavoured to teach me some of their language as well. It is a Mayan language, entirely different from Nahuatl, and it has a very unique sound, full of glottal stops and ejective consonants. Read More

Hymn of the Week – Sagrado es el amor

We sang this hymn (the Spanish version of “Blest Be the Tie That Binds”) with the church at Lejem in the Huasteca Potosina this past week. I thought it was very appropriate, as we were Christian family, even though this was the first time I had met many of them.

Sagrado es el amor
Que nos ha unido aquí,
A los que creemos del Señor
La voz que llama a sí.

A nuestro Padre Dios
Roguemos con fervor,
Alúmbrenos la misma luz,
Nos una el mismo amor.

Nos vamos a ausentar,
Mas nuestra firme unión
Jamás podráse quebrantar,
Por la separación.

Un día en la eternidad
Nos hemos de reunir,
Que Dios nos lo conceda, hará,
El férvido pedir.

Current Language Mission – Nahuatl

Fall at the Bruce FarmGreetings, faithful readers! I have returned to my native continent, and I decided just now to take the time to write up a real live blog post. You see, those photos and short posts from Europe did not freely flow from the fount of creativity, but were the result of assigned writing for one of my classes. This did not detract from their quality entirely; some were quite good in my own estimation, but others were a little forced, and would have gone unwritten were they not assigned. For these latter I apologize, but I hope to improve my habits so that I can have time to write down the things that I am truly inspired by.

At this moment I am currently sitting on a bench next to the driveway at our north-central Texas home. When I left Belgium it was cold and damp, but the fall leaves were lovely. When I arrived home, Autumn was still in the process of putting on her garb, and I am glad to report that she is now fully arrayed in her customary splendour. The leaves are turning all sorts of colours, the prickly pears are laden with bright red tunas, and the evening sunsets top it all off in a great show that mankind can never replicate. Meanwhile, I am preparing for my next travel destination: eastern San Luis Potosí, Mexico–which will prove quite a change from northern Europe. Read More

Back to the Roots, Part Two

While I was down in Mexico this past week, I had lots of fun improving my knowledge of the local dialect of Nahuatl–the language of the ancient Aztecs, in case you didn’t know. And I was discussing the topic of greetings with a friend of mine down there, who informed me that when one person meets another (providing they both speak Nahuatl) they say Kejyaui! or sometimes just Yaui! for short. Both of these words come from a longer phrase that was used in the olden days which means “How is it going?”

As a pursuer of greetings, I naturally asked if these words would be the equivalent of the Spanish word Hola!, which I noted was practically a meaningless greeting.

“A greeting?” he said. “Hola isn’t a greeting, unless you say ¿Cómo estás? or ¡Buenos días! or some similar phrase along with it. Do you really think hola is a greeting?”

“I certainly thought so,” I replied. I let the matter rest, supposing it to be some cultural difference. It wasn’t until a day or two later that I realized why he had maintained that hola was not a greeting.

The key lay within the simple word “greeting.” In Spanish this word is saludo, but until now I had never considered where this word originated. Obviously it comes from salud, “health,” which in turn came from the Latin word salus. Something cannot be a greeting, a saludo, unless you inquire about the other person’s health (“How are you doing today?”, etc.). Upon researching the English word greeting, I found that it comes from our Germanic heritage, and has always meant what it does now–saying “hail,” “hello,” or whatever other greeting is in style, whether health is involved or not.

So, next time something odd like that pops up in my interlingual discussions, I will go back to the roots! You never know what treasures you’ll find…