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Madagascar

Languages and dialects in Madagascar



A multitude of different languages

So, a certain word to the Betsileo can mean something completely different to the Antandroy... The official Malagasy language is that spoken in the Imerina highlands, which is home to the capital, Antananarivo.

We can add to that the languages spoken by the various communities that inhabit the country, sometimes for generations: some European languages spoken by the Vazaha, meaning us, an important Indo-Pakistani community, the Karana and the Chinese spoken by the... Sinoa.

Construction and pronunciation of phrases: how something simple becomes complicated…

In Malagasy, a basic sentence is constructed as follows: verb / complement / subject. As a quick example, the sentence Mitadiava vary anao, which means "Go search for rice", literally translates to: "Search rice you". For a majority of the verbs, the sentence's tense is defined by the first letter of the verb. If it starts with an "m", the sentence is in the present, if it starts with an "n", the sentence is understood to be in the past and if the verb begins with an "h", the sentence is the future!

Sentence construction in Malagasy is assumed to be fairly simple, but I've always had trouble pronouncing the words...

First, the letters are not pronounced anything like they are in English. So, the "o" becomes "oo", and "tr" and "dr" are pronounced "tch" and "dj" respectively. Finally the "j" is pronounced "dz". In addition, the last letter of a word is often aspirated, so we often don't hear it.

Young people from the southern part of the country @hoffmann Simon

So to summarise, a word like veloma (good-bye) is pronounced "vayloom’", misoatra (thank you) is said like "mi-soach’" and trondro (fish) becomes "chew-jew". And one last example, the Ambohijatovo district, from where many taxi-bés depart, next to Antananarivo's Independence Square, is pronounced "Amboohijatoov'".

Simon Hoffmann
193 contributions
Updated 14 October 2015
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