I began taking Mam classes this week. Mam, the local Mayan language, is spoken by most of the people in my town but is not needed so long as you are staying in the municipality of Cabricán and not heading out into any of the aldeas. My teacher, Doña Aida, is in charge of bilingual education (Mam and Spanish) in Cabricán and I really lucked out finding her because she has so much experience teaching the language. Hopefully I don’t tire of having one hour of classes every day for four months, because I think it would be really cool to be able to speak at least part of a Mayan language. I say part, because there is no way I’ll be able to master this. I’ve spent my first couple of days butchering the pronunciation as the language requires a lot of clicking and hacking from the back of your throat. I make a fool of myself every time I try to pronounce a word with a Q or a J in it. I think it sounds like I’m coughing up a lung. In any case, it will keep me occupied as the language is so complicated and I’m learning it from Spanish and not English. On the bright side, Doña Aida swears I am better at it than most of the gringos she has taught. We had a little laugh today as I explained to her I learned to roll my R’s studying abroad in Chile by repeating the phrase “para ti” on the buses, as this is what someone had suggested to me. She said people were going to ask me if I had something stuck in my throat if I tried practicing the Q and J on the buses in Cabricán.
Some phrases in Mam:
Se’nta’ye – ¿Como está? – How are you?
Tz’oka – Pase Adelante – Please come in.
Lweye – Adios – Goodbye
Chjontiye – Gracias – Thank you
Qal tb’iye – ¿Como se llama? – What’s your name?
Jantume’ tzajniye – ¿De donde viene? – Where are you from?
Atz tzajneqine’ kyxol xq’en* – Vengo de los Estados Unidos – I am from the United States
*(Translated directly, this actually means: I am from the place of the blonde people.)