By Sr. Sylviane Rouamba, community of Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania
As our Founder said, “To learn the language and culture of a people is to belong to that people”. This invitation from Cardinal Charles Lavigerie gives me the courage to learn Swahili with joy and love.
I am delighted to share with you my experience of learning Swahili in Tanzania, in our community of Dar Es Salaam. This experience has filled my heart with happiness because it has helped me feel part of this country as if I were in my own country.
I started learning Swahili on January 9, 2023. I started by learning the basics, i.e. greetings such as “Tumsifu Yesu Kristu”, the greeting used by Tanzanian Catholic Christians, “Habari za asubuhi” (good morning), “Habari za jioni” (good evening). Then I learned verbs, grammar and vocabulary. Little by little, I was able to speak, follow the conversation and understand what people were sharing with me. After that, it was the knowledge of the culture of the country that welcomed me. This knowledge enabled me to familiarize myself with the local people, to understand and respect their ways of thinking and living. It gave me the opportunity to visit friends and even join a choir to put into practice what I’d learned. They were kind and understanding.
Finally, after three months, I had the opportunity to go to Dodoma, another region of Tanzania. I was hosted by the sisters of Gemma, a local congregation that was founded by a Passionist priest. The Gemma sisters were happy to welcome me as their own sister, and I spent a month and a week with them. These sisters have many activities in their community: a cafeteria, a store where they make and sell shoes and another store with rosaries, prayer books and “vitenge”. I used to go into their stores to listen to and chat with the customers, and this enabled me to practice my Swahili and learn a few skills from their activities.
I am happy with this language learning experience because I am now able to understand and speak Swahili with people. I am grateful to our Congregation for giving me the opportunity to learn Swahili. May God bless our mission.