Last week KCPS Language Services and Webster staff compiled information about the cultures represented by newcomers in the district. The information was sent to principals to incorporate into their daily announcements this week for National Welcoming Week, a nationwide event that highlights contributions of immigrants to our communities. Here are the cultural vignettes:
Some of the newcomers enrolling this year speak Kinyarwanda. Also known as Rwandan, the language is spoken by 12 million people in the African countries of Rwanda, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Uganda and eight students at East High School. It is the official language of Rwanda along with English and French, and it’s a tonal language. To say “hello” in Kinyarwanda, say Malaho (mah-LAH-ho).
Another African language spoken by newcomers is Kongo. Also known as Kikongo, it is spoken by 9 million people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Congo, and Angola. The Democratic Republic of Congo is the size of the U.S. east of the Mississippi River. English words derived from the Kongo language include “goober,” “zombie,” and “funky.” Creolized forms of the Kongo language are spoken in Brazil, Jamaica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, and Haiti. It is also a tonal language. Lingala (ling-AH-lah) means “hello” in Kongo.
Spanish is an official language in 20 countries, including countries in North, Central and South America, Europe, and Africa. Although these countries share a language and many common traits, each country has its own unique culture and speaks a slightly different variety of Spanish. Spanish speakers in Kansas City Public Schools come from many countries, including Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Cuba, and others. Buenos días (BWAY-noes DEE-ahs) means “good morning” in Spanish.
Marhaban (MAR-ha-ban) means “hello” in Arabic, a language spoken in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Turkey. Arabic is the 6th most spoken language in the world! Many English words actually come from Arabic, words like “algebra,” “coffee,” “sugar,” “candy,” “cotton,” and “magazine.”
Vietnam is the second largest country located in Southeast Asia, second to Indonesia. Countries near Vietnam include Cambodia, Thailand, Laos and Macao. Through the 1980’s Vietnamese were fleeing Vietnam as a result of the communist government. Today, Vietnamese continue to immigrate to the United States but mostly to join family members who have become US citizens. As Vietnamese Americans have adapted to the American culture, they have kept their traditions and religious values intact. Their values include strong commitment to family and high educational expectations. “Welcome” in Viatnamese is hoan nghênh (juan ying)
Students in the Kansas City Public Schools from Burma or Thailand, which are in Southeast Asia, might speak Karen, Burmese, Karenni, Thai, Chin or Arakan. Some students might even speak two of these languages. Find out what their cultures and languages are! To greet them in Burmese say Manga la ba! To say good morning in Karen say Gaw La Gay!
Kiswahili, or Swahili, is a language spoken in several eastern African countries. It is the official language of Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and the African Union. If you want to say “hello” in Swahili, say Jambo. The Swahili people (or Waswahili) are an ethnic and cultural group inhabiting the African Great Lakes region. Art from the region will often consist of geometric designs. A few Swahili words that you may already know are “safari” and “simba,” which means lion.
After English and Spanish, Somali is the third most spoken language in the Kansas City Public Schools. Somali is spoken by 25 million people in Somalia, Djibouti, Ethiopia, and Kenya. Somali is the official language of Somalia along with Arabic. There are several different dialects in Somali language such as May May and Barawo but they usually understand each other. “Hello” in Somali is Hallow.
Namaste is a kind way to greet in Nepali. Most of the Nepali students in KCPS came to the United States because of a conflict between Bhutan and Nepal. Nepal is home to the highest mountains in the world, the Himalayas.