Sunday, February 26, 2012
T'saan : Mayan for beginners
We arrived late-ish (myself and friends Gail and Alfredo, also first-timers) and it was surprising to see about a dozen tables full of people, already in full gabfest mode. We were hived off to a couple of tables with people we hadn't met before.
There were no rules, the conversation just went back and forth from English to Spanish. More English than I would have preferred, though no doubt it varies from table to table, and week to week. One of our table-mates, Pablo, was pretty quiet, especially when the conversation was in English. But we got to talking about common Mayan words and Pablo was like a walking dictionary of the language.
I've been hoping to someday learn at least a bit of Mayan - it's spoken by half a million people here; in fact many Mayan people don't speak a lot of Spanish, so it is very useful to know some. Here are some of my first Mayan words, thanks to Pablo:
maquech - the beetles sold near the Plaza Grande, with tiny artificial jewels glued on their backs.
chan shipa - muchacho, boy
macachi-pek - shut up
purux - a fat person
dzao yan - skinny
mis - cat
ba oosh - how much?
hach ko - too much!
dios bo teek - thanks
chu huk - candy or sweet
choko kin - too hot
Of course these are missing the accents and apostrophes. I haven't noted the emphasis on syllables, and pronunciation - it is such a musical, percussive language. No doubt some of them are mis-spelled or just plain wrong. Corrections and clarifications are welcome.
So a couple of months later on another trip back from Mérida I was surprised to find a Spanish/ Maya dictionary in an airport convenience store. Not such a secret after all, I guess. I'm hoping to give the little dictionary a lot of use in the years to come.