Language Lessons at Luf

By the second day, the kids were getting along well with the Luf kids.  Shyness on both sides had subsided and the play began.  All along the beach were these perfectly round nuts that had fallen from a towering tree.  Soon enough, they were transformed into bombs and slung at each other in a full-on nut war.  I’m sure the parents who had just swept the yards were less than thrilled for the bombardment of the nuts they’d just gotten rid of, but no one seemed too bothered, so play continued.  This was typical boy play - why is it so easy for boys to just pick up anything off the ground, make a game, and become best buddies?  Elizabeth, being a twelve-year-old, took a bit more time to find some way to connect.  Often, she ends up tagging along with me until she finds that one girl who reaches out to her and invites her to play.  We each have to figure out our own way of interacting, and sometimes it just takes a bit more time.  Sometimes we need to be the ones to take a risk, be vulnerable, and reach out.  These are the lessons that deeply matter in life.  

When we first met Ben, the island tour guide, I inquired about possibly learning some of the local language, Seimat, determined to add to my list of PNG dialects.  The following day as he was taking us around the village, he introduced me to Freida, who said she would be happy to teach me some of the Ninigo language.  Ninigo is the island group 40 miles west of the Hermit Islands that has maintained its original language.  (In the Hermit Islands, Pidgin has become the spoken dialect.)

The next afternoon, I brought in my notebook and my cell phone ( I often use ‘voice memos’ app to record the people speaking) for my first language lesson.  By coincidence, Frieda’s brother, Nickson, was there, too, and turned out to be a fantastic teacher’s assistant.  He lived in Ninigo recently, and spoke English very well, too.  The three of us sat together at a table in her Seabreeze Restaurant, speaking, translating, and conjuring up the actual and phonetic spellings of common phrases.  Eventually, Frieda went to her home and found a Bible that had been translated into the Seimat language.  Elizabeth enjoyed looking up their weekly memory passage to see how it translated.  I was amazed that Bible translators had come to the tiny island group, and Nickson said a woman with SIL (Wycliff) had lived off and on in the village for six years!

Soon, my head was swimming with new sounds and words, and I decided that was enough for the day.  Turns out that first lesson was the only lesson, but when we get to Ninigo in a week I can’t wait to try out my few phrases and add many more!

Here’s a few phrases for you to try (next time you happen to run into someone from Luf or the Ninigo Islands!)...

Good morning - Le tuh (lay-too)
Good afternoon - Aloha Solian (aloha so-lee-ahn)
You alright? - O e wi? (oh ay wee)
I’m alright. - Na e wi. (nah ay wee)
Thank you. - Ke mu lik wanin. (keh moo leek wah nen)
What is your name?  Axa maita (the x makes the throaty g, like in German - ah ghah my tah)

Kids playing while mom has language lessons
Kids being kids! 
Knifes and kids always mix well


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