I still don’t really know how to pronounce that. That could easily qualify as a normal Somali male name.
We still have a week until the students arrive and school actually starts, but I’m already worried about butchering the pronunciation of kids’ names. Yesterday I spent an hour entering the names of hundreds of exam takers into a spreadsheet and was totally overwhelmed by the way many Somali names are spelled.
In Somali, the English letter ‘c’ is pronounced like a glottal stop deep in the back of one’s throat. I really haven’t figured out yet how to use it correctly yet. ‘X’ is pronounced like an overly emphasized ‘h’. ‘Q’ is pronounced like you are saying the letter ‘k’ in the back of your mouth. As you can probably imagine, this is all quite confusing for me and my Somali language skills are developing at a snail’s pace.
The naming tradition amongst Somalis is unique. Funny enough, my only other experience in sub-Saharan Africa has been in Ghana, where people are commonly called by their day names (For me, that makes two African countries; two naming styles). Ghanaians often use a name that relates to the day on which they were born. Some examples are Kweku, Kofi, Kojo, Kwesi, and Kwame (For example, Kofi Annan, former UN secretary general, and Kwame Kilpatrick, Detroit’s disgraced former mayor). When I taught there, my students all referred to me as ‘Baba Kwesi’ because I was born on a Sunday.
Here in Somaliland, most people have three names: a given name followed by their father’s given name and their grandfather’s. It keeps going on like that – the fourth name is the great-grandfather’s, the fifth name is the great-great-grandfather’s, and so on. Many Somalis can recite their names to the 25th level as a testament to their clan lineage, which is of upmost importance in Somalia. Add to this the difficult pronunciation and the fact that many Somalis have similar names, and it starts getting very confusing very fast. I’ve never been good at remembering names and I finally understand why all of my teachers and professors over the years took attendance for months and commonly confused their students’ names.
For any non-Somali speaking readers who think they are up for the challenge, try pronouncing the following Somali names, consisting of the first four names for better identification. Remember, x’s are like h’s and c’s are glottal stops…
Bootaan Cabdiraxmaan Cali Ismaaciil
Casha Maxamed Yuusuf Muxumed
Xamde Cabdillahi Canaan Maxamed
Jimcaale Xasan Xirsi Gadiid
Cabdirisaaq Cabdiraxmaan Axmed Mux’ed
Mubaarig Mukhtaar Gaaxnuug Aadan
Ibraahim Xasan Jamaac Cismaan
Cabdifataax Hassan Cabdiqani Ducaale
I hope that was difficult. Needless to say, I have learned four key words/phrases in Somali so far:
Iska waran – How are you?
Mahadsanid – Thank you
Ha – Yes
Maya – No
Before my next post I will try and perfect my Somali pronunciation and hopefully will have started memorizing some names.
That’s all for now…signing off from the region in Somaliland where I live: Woqooyi Galbeed, also known as Maroodi Jeex (have fun enunciating that one!)