I missed the joke…Fluent but not quite..

When people meet me, they are often surprised when they discover I was born and raised in the United States. They admire the fact that I speak Amharic fluently. I’m sure many other Ethiopian Americans experience similar adoration for their language skills whenever others discover that they were not born in our beautiful motherland Ethiopia. Yes, I am an Ethiopian American who speaks Amharic fluently. But my fluency is actually a bit limited.

I find that I often miss the joke when I’m sitting in a group of native Amharic speakers. Sometimes, I laugh along only to discover I actually only understood half of the joke… I always get called out on the fact that I probably missed the substance of the joke…which is ultimately true.  I get lost sometimes in complex political or historical discussions.  I get confused when I meet people from different tribes using different dialects.  I find myself saying huh? what does that mean? more often than I would actually like.

But I must say, I , and other Ethiopian Americans take great pride in the fact that we can even engage in conversation in Amharic.  It’s ok, I don’ t have to understand the complex jokes and sophisticated vocabulary used among the native speakers.  The vocabulary of Ethiopia is ever growing as it is a Country as old as man kind.   So yes, I missed the joke…but so what..I still consider myself to be fluent. Although my Amharic may not have reached perfection I think its perfect enough considering the circumstances.

I’m just an Ethiopian American Girl trying to fit into the Ethiopian world.

*the picture in this post is a prime example of me missing the joke*


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