Sunshine Abroad

The trials and rewards of French translation and beyond

Awesome Things About Malagasy

I’m in week 3 of Malagasy lessons, which is about the point where you learn just enough to be dangerous. But I am learning a lot, including a bunch about just how Malagasy operates as a language, and I’m loving it. Here are some things I’ve learned and loved (spelling and accuracy not guaranteed):

  • “Sira” means salt. “Mamy” means sweet. “Siramamy,” or sweetened salt...means sugar.

  • Counting: When they got to a million, they were done. “Iray tapitrisa” comes from “tapitra,” which means “all done” or “that’s all.” So, y’know, let’s stop counting. But a billion exists, too… “Iray lavitrisa” comes from “lavitra,” which essentially means “we went too far.”

  • There are a lot of words that come from English, and a lot of them are about school: pen is “penina,” pencil is “pensilihazo.” This is because the British missionaries from the London Missionary Society were the first ones to set up schools.

  • There are a lot of French loan words (or whatever you want to call them), too...but they’re mostly for food. “Dite” from “du thé” (tea), “dibera” from “du beurre” (butter), “divay” from “du vin” (wine), “dipaina” from “du pain” (bread).

  • A translator is “mpandika teny:” one who copies language.

Oh, if it were only that simple!