Filed under: Paraguay
Okay, so I admit it. I’m in love with Guaraní.
Guaraní is the indigenous language of Paraguay that is spoken by well, pretty much all Paraguayans. Though Spanish is spoken pretty interchangeably in the urban areas of Paraguay, the ‘campo’ (rural areas) are pretty much all Guaraní. And even though many Paraguayans in urban areas speak Spanish in their daily jobs, Guaraní or Jopará (a mix of Spanish and Guaraní) are nearly always spoken at home.
I have been learning Guaraní for two weeks now for four hours every day. At the beginning of my Guaraní class, I really struggled with the language (especially since they teach us Guaraní in Spanish, so I felt like I was learning two languages at the same time). I mean seriously- a mere hello is mbaé’chepa? How do you even PRONOUNCE that? There are also a ton of nasal sounding letters that are extremely hard to pronounce if you speak English as a first language- for example, yes means hée (I always feel like an evil character from a kid’s cartoon when I say this), and the ‘y’s in Guaraní are actually more like ‘ih’ but more high-pitched. Let’s just say that it’s hasy, or difficult.
But now that we’ve started working on verbs and creating small sentences, not only am I finding it much easier to work with, but I’m finding myself falling in love with the language. Guaraní is known as a ‘dulce’ language- sweet to the ears. It is very emotional and there are just some expressions in Guaraní that English can’t epitomize. The more I learn, the faster I speak, and the more Guaraní flows out of my mouth like sweet candy.
Moreover, Paraguayans love Guaraní. A current volunteer in Paraguay puts it perfectly: speaking Spanish versus speaking Guaraní is like being a friendly neighbor versus being everyone’s newly adopted daughter. Even if you can only say three words in Guaraní, a Paraguayan’s face will light up. Even with the limited Guaraní I know, my homestay family praises me on being ‘super inteligente.’ Shavon and I even got a discount at a store today on our tortillas and empanadas, and I’m pretty sure it had to do with the fact that I said ‘che cheréra Brittany’ (my name is Brittany). The storekeeper broke into a huge grin when I said it.
So, coming to Paraguay and want to learn some Guaraní? Here at the basics (and don’t worry, I’ll try my best to phonetically spell them so you’re not confused!)
Mbaé’chepa! (Bah-eh-sheh-pah) – Hello! How are you? (Guaraní doesn’t have question marks- the ‘pa’ in Mbaé’chepa
connotes a question)
Ipora, ha nde (Ee-pour-ah, hah nudeh) – I’m fine, and you?
Ipora (Ee-pour-ah) – I am fine.
Mbaé’chepa nderéra (Bah-eh-sheh-pah nu-dere-rah) – What is your name?
Che cheréra Brittany (Sheh Sher-ere-rah Brittany) – My name is Brittany.
Che areko veinti-tre año (Sheh ar-eh-koh veinti-tre año) – I am 23 years old (Note that the numbers and year are the same in Spanish, except Guaraní doesn’t use an ‘s’ for the year or date)
Añe’e mishimi Guaraní (On-nyey-eh meesh-ee-mee Guaraní) – I speak a little Guaraní
Mbaé’chepa ojeey _____ Guaraníme (Bah-eh-sheh-pah Oh-jay-eh _____ Guaranímeh) – How do you say ______ in Guaraní?
So now that you’ve mastered some basic Guaraní, I thought it would be fun to share my top five favorites words and phrases! Hopefully this well shed some light onto why I love it so much.
My Top Five Favorites Words/Phrases In Guaraní
1. Aiiiichijanaga! (Aeeeee-she-jah-na-gah) – Poor me/Poor her/Poor this/Poor that!
I love this phrase so much because it so expressive. You can really hear the ‘Pooooooooor me!’ when it’s said, which is in a sort of sad sighing way. As much as this is a serious word used to express something sad, I frankly find it hilarious and drop it into conversations all the time with my family and fellow Peace Corps trainees. A lot of laughter always ensues. Such a perfect and descriptive word that we don’t have in English!
2. Iporaiterei (Ee-pour-ah-ee-teh-reh-ee)– VERY VERY VERY GOOD!
Guaraní has four different ways to say ‘good’- Ipora, which is just good- Iporante, which is very good- Iporaminte, which is very VERY good- and finally, Iporaiterei, which is VERY VERY VERY good! So if you’re feeling pretty on top of the world and your friend asks ‘how are you?’ the best answer is always Iporaiterei! Again, a useful word we are lacking in English!
3. Vacapipopo (Vah-kah-pee-poh-poh)– Soccer ball
Just say this 3 times fast and you will understand why this word makes me crack up (unless of course, you’re too mature for such nonsense- but who wants to be that?)
4. Mbaraka Ovama (Barack Obama)– I already moved the guitar.
Nothing better than learning that the US President’s name in Guaraní means ‘I already moved the guitar.’
5. Che Cheréra GuilFrida. (Sheh Sheh-reh-rah Goo-eel Free-dah)– My name is Brittany.
My host family decided to suddenly announce to me tonight over dinner that my name in Guaraní means ‘Guil Frida.’ Yes. Seriously. My name is GUIL. I don’t quite know why I found it so immediately hilarious- maybe it was the way that they announced it out of the blue, or the fact that it sounds like ‘herr doctor’ or something equally ridiculous- but basically I started laughing so hard that I choked on my dinner and had a coughing fit. Only to then nearly start crying with laughter when they told me my nickname could be ‘Guili-Guili.’ Sounds perfect, hée? I had to explain to them that ‘Guil’ rhymes with ‘Squeal’ in the U.S., and that if they called me ‘Guili-Guili,’ they would be mimicking the sound of a pig. We’re trying to settle on a more flattering nickname.
There’s a little bit of Guaraní to tide you over for the time being. As each day passes, I find myself loving the language more and more. Heres to becoming fluent within the next two years!
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