Could Malagasy Be Africa’s Most Interesting Language?

Not many people actually know what Malagasy is, so it helps to start with the basics. Malagasy is the native language of Madagascar, spoken by around 18 million people in that beautiful island country located in the Indian Ocean in the Southeast coast of Africa. Interestingly, the people of Madagascar are also called Malagasy, little wonder the language is spoken throughout the country.

Even of more peculiar interest is that Madagascar is not a Malagasy word but a corrupted version of Madagasikara, which is the indigenous name of the country. However, Madagascar is more known, thanks to its popularization by the Europeans after it was first recorded by 15th century explorer Marco Polo.

Malagasy remains a rich language that unites all the people of Madagascar and makes communication and interdependence easy even in its capital city Antananarivo. This is why Malagasy shares the status of official national language with French, the lingua franca of Madagascar’s former colonisers from whom independence was attained in 1960.

The origin and distinctness of Malagasy

Malagasy originates from Indonesia but also borrows from Arabic and Bantu languages and more recently from French and English. What continues to pique the curiosity of linguists is how that language has passed the test of time by remaining the only language spoken in this large island country with diverse ecosystems separated from one another by forests, deserts, mountains and rivers, yet there are over 60 languages spoken in Uganda alone.

Malagasy has managed to stay strong and popular, thanks in large part, to the artistic and oratorical way it has been passed down from one generation to another. Madagascar’s oral tradition is rich and distinct; poetry, public discourses and proverbs have kept the language intact because of the country’s strong oral history.

The overreliance on oral history to commemorate the country’s past key events whilst preserving their language and traditional beliefs only began to change with the introduction of the written form. However, Malagasy remains the language of instruction in all public schools, which explains why written Malagasy is far different from spoken Malagasy.

The language of love?

Islands are often associated with romance – places where newlywed couples and lovers with hearts pounding with the chemistry of love go to unwind. Madagascar being an island nation is no exception. Most people take their honeymoons there, but to maximize your stay it helps if you know and speak Malagasy. Luckily, in 1818 the London Missionary Society sent some missionaries to Madagascar; they evangelized the nation and translated the Bible into the Malagasy language, so you can pick a few Malagasy words by reading the Malagasy Bible.

Certainly there are also some Malagasy dictionaries that you can buy online from Amazon to teach yourself Malagasy—a language whose alphabet is the same as the English alphabet but with only letters C, Q, U, W, and X missing. Malagasy diplomats are spreading their language to France, Belgium and Washington, D.C., where it is growing in popularity, which is why the Malagasy translation services are now much sought-after. Here are some of other language translation services you may happen to need;

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