Today for my English club I decided to make a version of the Memory game using pairs of words translated from English to Setswana. So, the students would put all the cards face down and take turns turning over pairs, trying to make a match of an English word and its Setswana counterpart.
To prepare, I made a list of English words and my fellow YES Club teacher, Charity, translated them into Setswana. I tried to fill the list with somewhat challenging, but still relatively common words. Examples: bored, love, to explain, to believe, to laugh, important, possible, dangerous.
Charity brought the list back to me and we started to write words on the cards. She stopped me, rhetorically asking, “How do you say I’m sad? Hmm. You just have to say that you are not happy.” Rolling my eyes at a language that doesn’t have a word for “sad,” I continued to work.
She stopped me again. “Sad and depressed, are they the same thing?” I saw that in her translation she had written down the same Setswana word for both.
Two minutes later: “Focused and determined, they are the same.”
Two minutes later: “Annoyed and embarrassed and upset, are they all the same?”
My answer every time: “In English they aren’t.” Her response every time: “Ah, but in Setswana…”
Examples of other words that are exactly the same:
- To like and to love
- To stand and to wait
- To stay and to sit
- To demonstrate and to point
- To rescue and to help
- Work and responsibility
- To remember and memory
- Custom and culture
- To like, to want, to prefer, and to need
Lesson learned? The Setswana language is exactly the opposite of a thesaurus.