I am working in Guinea-Bissau again. I don’t remember how many times I have come here, beginning in 2009. I am staying and working in a part of Bissau called Caracol. I found out that means “snail,” and I can see why. This place is crawling with them.

A handy Creole phrase here is luz ka ten, which literally means “there is no light,” but that’s how you say there is no electricity. Or to say that we’ve lost the electricity, it is luz bai, “light went.” There are no definite articles in Guinea-Bissau Creole, by the way. Actually, we have had electricity here this time much more than in previous visits; just not all the time.

When you see someone for the first time in the day, you ask, Kuma bu mansi? “How did you get up?” The normal answer is N mansi ben/diritu, which is “I got up well/straight.” The first person singular pronoun is simply N.

Another common phrase these day, in the rainy season, is the mellifluous cuba cubi ciu. Note that the c in Creole is pronounced like English “ch”, and Creole ciu would be pronounced like English “chew.” This phrase means “It is raining a lot.” Or I can say, “Look, it is raining a lot!” Jubi, cuba cubi ciu!

I am working with the Guinea-Bissau Creole Bible translation team. I will write more about that next time.

About David Frank

linguistics and translation consultant
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