Thursday, March 19, 2009

Spoken Sango: a musical language

For those of you wondering what Sango is, wonder no more. Sango is the national language of the Central African Republic (the official language being French). There are also numerous tribal languages, making most Central Africans trilingual at least.

For those of you out there wondering how Sango sounds when spoken, wonder no more. For your listening pleasure I give you the November 5, 2008 evening broadcast of Radio Centrafrique, Sango language edition, where President Bozize offers his congratulations to President-elect Obama.

You can download the Sango version, or listen here:

For comparison, you can download the French version, or listen here:

I hope you hear how musical spoken Sango is, with its high, medium, and low tones like Chinese. If you listen closely, you can hear numerous French words slipping in (a hallmark of educated urbanites), although the prepared text of the broadcast does try hard to limit the number of loadwords where possible to help develop Sango as a sufficiently rich language on its own.

For those who understand neither Sango nor French, President Bozize expressed (very roughly) the pride that (Central) Africans have that a man of half-African descent has become the most powerful man in the most powerful country of the world, and that this is a sign that skin color is no longer an issue. The Sango motto of the CAR is Zo Kwe Zo (literally "Person-each person") meaning that every person is a somebody, regardless of tribe (or by extension, race or nationality). Those who think this sounds an awful lot like the South African idea of Ubuntu have good instincts. Both phrases center on the word "humanity". For Americans, Obama's election is a welcome sign that we too are at last embracing the idea that Zo Kwe Zo. Strom Thurmond must be rolling over in his grave.

1 comment:

Scott said...

And here I thought that "Ubuntu" was Geek for "That which sucks all the fun and brains out of a once-proud operating system".

Very cool language.