LESSON #86: Yes or No…

If you speak 2 or more languages, you are likely to have discovered that different languages use yes/no in different ways. What I mean is, for example my native language being Swahili, when I first started learning English I really struggled because the two words weren’t used in the same way as in Swahili. Whereas I’d normally reply with ndiyo in Swahili, I soon discovered that I should actually say the opposite, hapana,  in English, and vice versa.

To give an example, let’s compare 2 questions requiring the answer yes or no and see how the answers differ in the 2 languages. (ndio = yes, hapana = no)

i) Have you eaten?…..yes I have
Umekula?…….ndio nimekula (yes, I have)
So far so good, now lets try this:

ii) Have you eaten?……no, I haven’t
Umekula?……….hapana, sijala (no, I haven’t)
Still doing good right? Now lets mess with your heads a bit…

iii) Haven’t you eaten?…….no, I haven’t
Hujala?………ndio, sijala (yes, I haven’t)

iv) Haven’t you eaten?………yes, I have
Hujala?…………hapana, nimekula (no, I have)

Makes you want to tear your hair out right? Yeahs my exact reaction many years ago when I first started learning English! Honestly though, I think the Swahili version makes more sense compared to English, but then again am guessing the English will find our usage equally mind boggling- to each their own then!

So lets make it easy and try inventing a formula:
English: affirmative question= fully affirmative/fully negative answer
Swahili: same thing

English: negative question= fully affirmative/fully negative answer
Swahili: negative question= mixed answer, never fully affirmative or negative.

The little Korean I know has taught me that our use of the 2 are similar, not too sure how other languages compare so feel free to share below.

Akhsanteni na kwaherini!

Tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply