18 Jul 08

Slowly and steadily I am learning Buli. Buli had so many words and phrases that are fun to say. Ti li man ziggi chab.  Tikiti.  zum. And as blunt as the sotherners are about their bathroom needs the Bulsa are very descrete. You say “I will throw water.”  Mi li basi nyiem. On the other hand they are not so descrete because if you are on a long tro tro journey and need to throw water you can stop the driver any time by yelling from your place in the bus
“Ma saalim, Drive, mi li basi nyiem!”  Then he says yes and you get out and find a place to hide most of your self and throw your water! 


The thing I am having the most trouble with is the placement of verb, adverb, adjective and article.  In English you say The blue hat in French you say The hat blue and in Buli you say Hat blue the.  And instead of saying “my father’s name is Ben” you say “My father his name is Ben.”  I often forget a pronoun here or there or say blue hat instead of hat blue. 


My teacher and my friend, (Mi ticha ali mi n dua) Agatha is amazing. Languages are to her like computers are to me. She speaks 16 northern Ghana languages. And all the wonderful things my co-workers have said about my teaching apply to her’s. She is patient. She makes learning fun. Even making mistakes is fun. Yesterday she had me come to her house to make Saab.  Saab is similar to Fufu or Banku. It’s made from corn flour and water and cooked on the stovetop. It looks like a mound of uncooked bread dough but tastes smooth and warm. You eat all three with soup (jenta) of various kinds.  Last night was vaata ali yum jenta,  Leaves and fish soup.  There were also onions, garlic and tomatoes in the soup. People in the north eat a lot of leaves because they do not have many other greens.


I have progressed to making my own sentences in Buli. Peace Corps does not teach us like we learned language in school with grammer and parsing verbs. We learn phrases and some vocabulary. I have only had about 30 minutes of grammar. What happens is that i figure out the grammar like the noun, adjective and article arrangement.  Or I notice a particular word in many phrases and figure out it is an article. Agatha gives me tons of vocabulary. I have vocabulary for greetings, for traveling, for talking about myself and others, for cooking and tomorrow shopping vocabulary.


So just this week I have figured out enough about sentence construction to create very simple original sentences.  On Tuesday morning I had all my sentences to try out on Agatha. Simple things like how did you sleep? what did you eat this morning? How is your house? etc. 


What has also won my heart with Agatha is that we play games to reinforce my lessons. So much fun.


Agatha and I are both Tuesday born. As I said before people often have an name based on the day of the week they are born. Usually it’s a name the family uses and they also have an English name as well. People who are born on the same day of the week feel like it makes a bond between them. Agatha and I certainly are developing a bond. I think I would say she is my first African friend.





  1. April 27, 2011 at 8:24 am

    I read this article with great interest, because I had similar problems with the Buli language. Nevertheless, I think the word order of Buli is not the greatest problem. For a German (like me) the sentence “My father his name is Ben” does not sound very extraordinary (In bad German people say: Mein Vater sein Name ist Ben). Also in English this construction had not always been obsolete. Remember Ben Jonson’s Drama “Sejanus his fall”. Perhaps the Genetive ‘s of modern English is a remnant of the old “his”.
    I think the most serious problem of learning Buli is that it is a tone-language, e.g. nààb (low tone) means “chief”, nááb (high tone) means “cow”.
    By the way, I wonder where you stayed in Buluk or where Agnes, your teacher, is from. You use nyem (water), which is Wiaga dialect (Sandema: nyiam), but “yum” (fish) which is “jum” in Wieni (Wiaga dialect). Besides, in Wiaga many people have not given up the gy and ky spelling instead of “j” and “ch” (gyenta, soup instead of jenta; kyaab, instead of chaab).
    Are you continuing your Buli studies?
    If you are still interested in the Bulsa you may have a look at my website http://www.buluk.de
    Franz Kröger

    • awenlie said,

      July 11, 2011 at 6:25 pm

      hi i am from sandema, but i live in accra am also learning buli. i can speak but by reading and writting is horrible. am called awenlie

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