This is an essential short lesson for new learners of Soussou on the most essential parts of “survival” language skills. In order to get around in Soussou speaking communities, perhaps the most important thing one should be able to do is to introduce themselves to people. This introduction most importantly begins with the correct greetings. It is essential to make a good first impression when meeting people for the first time. As such, this lesson is critical for all Soussou learners. The goal of this lesson is for learners to be able to both use the correct forms of salutation (time of day, number of people, etc.) as well as introduce who they are and where they are from. [Note: This set of exercises formed the basis for my peer-teaching experience.]
- Introduction to the lesson:
Explanation that for Soussou speakers, greetings and questions about family are the most important way to start off a situation on the right foot. This is an essential way to make a good first impression and begin any interaction. One thing that must be emphasized here too is that pronunciation is key. Try not to be afraid of the different ways that things might be expressed in Soussou versus in English or other languages.
The most essential introduction for going to a new place: “Wö mama bé!” (Greetings!) Although this is not the exact literal translation, this is perhaps the most common and most important way of saying hello. Although many people will often start with how are you, it is crucial to begin any conversation with “Wö mama” because it sets the tone that you are giving everyone a greeting and wishing them well.
Following this, usually one would often say “Wö nou wali” a couple of times 2-4. This is a common way of expressing thanks. In this case, the expression of thanks will be thanking people for their welcoming you into their home.
- Note well: If it is only one person, you might start the greeting with “I mama” and “I nou wali” (I is singular, wö is plural)
Next, you would ask people how they are doing. This is done a number of different ways depending on the time of the day, and is quite important as well.
Morning: I/wö kena, Tana mou khi, Hèri khi
Afternoon: Tana mou feignè, Hèri feignè
Evening: I/wö nou maré
General: Tana mou na na? Tana mou i ma?
All of these greetings should be repeated multiple times along with your mentor to make sure that the correct pronunciation is reached. The pronunciation of “khi” and “feignè” can be particularly difficult for non-native speakers. These are important words to learn. These greetings form the bedrock of introductions.
Morning: Tana yo mou khi
Afternoon: Tana yo mou feignè
General: Tana yo mou / Tana yo mou ne ma / Tana yo mi ma bé
- Asking about Family:
It is essential to follow up all greetings by asking about people’s family. While this tends to not be as common of a practice in many Western countries, in Soussou culture it is key to ask people about their family members – which can have an extended reach as well, and touch even on friends from work or neighbors. However, this is an important way to be respectful.
Dembaya go? – How is your family?
I baba go? – How is your father?
I nga go? – How is your mother?
I habílè go? – How is your extended family (also used for people who are unmarried)
Ikha guinè go? – How is your wife?
I dökhö boré go? – How are your neighbors? (I biriin ya lankhi?) – Are they all in good health?
I walikè boré go? – How are your friends/companions from work?
These are a few of important questions to ask whenever seeing people for the first time. These are essential questions that must be asked. Generally, there are not too many people who you can ask about – it is good to ask widely.
- Introducing Yourself:
Introducing yourself is of great importance. You should know how to do this, at least the most basics. This part of the lesson will only serve as a small introduction to this.
I khrili di – What is your name?
N khri li né… – My name is…
I tan go? – And you?
I kélikhi miin dhé? – Where are you from?
N kele khi Etats-Unis d’Amérique né – I am from the United States (You can substitute other places if needed)
I kélikhi böhi moun doun ma? – You are coming from which country?
These are just the basic ways of introducing your name and where you are from. It is important to specify your name (which is often your family name) first. Then you should focus on talking about where you’re from. In a later lesson, we will focus on talking about the reasons for your visit.
- Pulling It All Together:
For the last part of this lesson, we will attempt, along with a language mentor, to enact a short skit. Pretend that it is your first time visiting a Soussou home. Think about how many people are there. What are you going to ask? How will you start? If it is your first time, how will you introduce yourself?
Make sure to ask for feedback from your language mentor before closing out this lesson. Likely, there are places you might want to expand. Make sure to stay calm and focus on your pronunciation. As Marshall and others remind us, no one is looking for perfection. Most people are just interested in communicating with you. Keep this at the front of your mind.