Previously Answered Questions / FAQ

Q:
Hi.  I am looking for a couple of things.   How to say "beautiful" and how to say "unique" in  African ?  Thank you.

A:
Hi buGG,

There is no such language as "African"; there are many different languages spoken in Africa (estimated to be over 2000, in several major language families), and as it happens not one of these languages is called 'African'. The way to say those things would depend on which language you are referring to, you'd first have to decide that as a starting point.

There is a fairly good overview/introduction here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/African_languages

Note that in many of the African languages (especially in the 'Niger-Congo/Bantu' family), the way of expressing something like "beautiful" is quite complex - there is not one single word like in English, rather, the form of the word varies depending on *what* is beautiful, and there can easily be ten or twenty different forms in a language. This is due to the so-called 'noun class system':

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noun_class#Bantu_languages

So for example in Swahili, there is an adjectival 'stem' "-zuri" meaning beautiful, but it must take a different prefix for different types of things being said to be beautiful. E.g. "beautiful eyes" is "macho mazuri", but "beautiful child" is "mtoto mzuri", and so on. (Of course, Swahili is just one of hundreds of languages that follow this general kind of principle.)

(Note there is one online dictionary that calls itself an an "English to African dictionary":
http://www.freedict.com/onldict/afr.html
This is however a MISTAKE - that dictionary is actually an "English to Afrikaans" dictionary, and they have incorrectly translated the name "Afrikaans" to "African" - although it means that, the language Afrikaans is never called "African".)