Reasons to Always Learn the Local Language

Those of you who know me well know my love for lingustics, and learning  languages around the world. My Kiva Fellowship was a perfect opportunity to nurture this passion of mine further. Since I arrived in Kenya, I've been learning the beautiful language of Swahili. When you love learning languages, it also makes you also meet some amazing local people that you develop bonds with ...

Meet Michael, he is one of many cab's drivers that work with Kiva in Kenya! He picked me up this morning for work and said "Nina, it's been a long time, a week since I saw you, but I remembered you like to practice Kiswahili. I want you to learn it more and more. So I sat and wrote down many phrases for you to learn hoping to see you again to give it to you. You can practice more now!"

He handed me this hand-written paper full of Kiswahili phrases! We had a lot of fun during our ride to work practicing his hand-written phrases. What a great soul! Michael went to school until 7th grade and then dropped out since his family didnt have money to continue his education along with his 7 other siblings. He has 4 kids, 2 are twins, and lives in Nairobi. He says, "My twins are so much work, when one crys, other one starts crying, when one gets sick, other one also automatically gets sick, but I love them, they are gift from God!"

"Language is the roadmap of a culture. It tells you where it's people come from and where they are going" -- Rita Mae.

Some of my favorite moments here are doing these Swahili crossword puzzles that my Mwalimu (Teacher in Swahili), Julius leaves behind after a good lesson as a perk. Mwalimu Julius has become an official Kiva Swahili teacher and has been teaching Swahili to many Kenyan Kiva Fellows.

Mwalimu Julius with his Swahili Teaching Binder

Few of my favorite Kiswahili phrases are "Pole Pole" which mean "Slowly" and "Lala Fofofo" and it has only 3 "fo"s in it - it means "Sleep Deeply."

Did you know the word "Swahili" comes from Arab word "Sahil" whose plural is "Sawahil," which means "Coast, Boundary." Beautiful!

Why not make a Kiva / Kiva Zip loan in Swahili speaking countries of East Africa? Visit Kiva or Kiva Zip

About the author

Nina Patel.

Nina has been working for NASA as a Software Engineer for the last 10 years. She graduated with Bachelors in Computer Science from Penn State University, Masters in Software Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University and studied abroad in Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. Growing up in India, she developed a deep interest in international development through interacting with small struggling businesses on daily basis – where each person had sense of sincerity, survival, and hard work. She first heard of Kiva in 2006 through an interview with Mohammad Yunnus. In Kiva, she saw the unleashing power of microfinance, a pure human connection, a never-ending selfless cycle of giving, receiving, and self-empowerment using web 2.0 technology. She wanted to be part of it, and instantly became a Kiva lender and volunteer. Empowered by her technical skills and cross-cultural experiences, giving back to society is a part of her life’s purpose. Her passions include technology, space exploration, art, social enterprises and conscious businesses. She is leaving her enthusiasm for NASA space exploration behind to pursue her passions further, starting with this amazing Kiva Fellowship in Kenya, Africa.