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Barkàa dà zuwàa! 'Welcome'

Distribution of the Hausa language
Map © Monika Feinen

Hausa is the most important lingua franca in West Africa and is especially spoken in northern Nigeria and South Niger. There are about 100 million speakers of Hausa: mother-tongue-speakers and those, who learned it as second or third language. Hausa language, in terms of number of speakers, is the most significant of about 140 Chadian languages, which belong to the Afro Asian language family, to which Semitic and Berber languages count as well.

At the institute, Muhammad Muhsin Ibrahim teaches standard Hausa, which is related to the dialect of Kano (northern Nigeria), his home state. Since the 13th century, Hausa was written in a revised form of the Arabian alphabet, the so called àjàmi. Today, this alphabet is reserved for Islamic religious texts and was replaced by the standard spelling bookòo (from engl. "book"), a Romanised writing system.

The oldest newspaper Gaskiya Ta Fi Kwabo (“The truth is worth more than a Kobo”) was founded in 1939 and has had great impact on standardisation of language. The book market in northern Nigeria offers a wide range of literary publications. The Indian films and videos greatly influence the popular novels, while are few others are not. The emergent Hausa film industry, Kannywood is also heavily influenced by the same Indian romantic, masala films. For example, song and dance routine is a recurring pattern in several Kannywood films.

Hausa is a tone language, which means the level of tone is a distinguishing attitude in vocabulary and grammar. There are high, deep and fall tones. Examples: bàaba 'father' and baabà 'mother'; ya tàfi 'he went' and yà tàfi 'he shall go'. The length of vocals can also indicate a difference: gàrii 'town' und gàarii 'flour'. And there are some consonants, that do not appear e.g. in German.

Hausa knows masculine (m) and feminine (f). The Hausa word order resembles the German: subject-verb-object. Verbs are not conjugated by person and time; but for many different paradigms, that contain information about time, aspect and modus.

Greeting – Gaisuwaa

Hello! Sànnu!
How did you spend the night?
Ìnaa kwaanaa?
Be greeted at work!
You, too!
Sànnu dà aikìi!
Sànnu kàdai!
Good evening!
Good evening!
Barkàa dà yâmma!
Barkàa kàdai!
How’s the family?
Very well!
Ìnaa gidaa?
Laafiyàa lau!
See you soon!
See you soon!
Sai an jumàa!
Sai an jumàa!

Questions and answers – tambayooyii dà amsooshii

What is your (f) name?
My name is Maryàm.
Yàayàa suunankì?
Suunaanaa Maryàm.
Are you (f) married?
No, I am not married.
Kinàa dà auree?
Aa'àa, bâa ni dà auree.
What is your (m) name?
My name is David.
Yàayàa suunankà?
Suunaanaa David.
Are you (m) married?
Yes, I am married.
Kanàa dà auree?
Ii, inàa dà auree.
Where are you (m/f) from?
I am from Germany.
Dàgà ìnaa ka/kikà zoo?
Naa zoo dàgà Jaamùs.
Are you German (f)? Kee Bàjaamushìyaa cèe?
Are you German (m)? Kai Bàjaamushèe nee?
Are you Germans? Kuu Jaamusaawaa nèe?
Are you a Hausa (f)? Kee Bàhaushìyaa cèe?
Are you a Hausa (m)? Kai Bàhaushèe nee?
Are you Hausa (people)? Kuu Hàusàawaa nèe?

Hausa bàa dabòo ba nèe!

'Hausa is no magic !'