How Luganda and Swahili caused a country’s melt down

Nyege nyege almost caused billion shilling losses to the proprietor in a not so rare case of misinterpretation or generally miscommunication of a word  in Luganda and Swahili. You ask how? Imagine cancelling flights, hotel bookings and not to forget; the deposits already paid to the local and international artists!

You see, there is a highly anticipated 3 day even in Uganda referred to as Nyege nyege where thousands of people from all over the world come together at the source of the longest river in the world; River Nile to revel with a variety of music and to celebrate the African heritage.


How the Luganda and Swahili miscommunication happened

Well, apparently Uganda’s Minister for Ethics and Integrity Simon Lokodo; a priest by the way misunderstood the Nyege nyege which when loosely translated from the Luganda word “ekinyegenyege” (Luganda is the most widely spoken language in Uganda with… speakers although the country has more than 60 languages) means to shake or to dance.

The priest who prematurely announced the cancellation of the festival 2 days to its start told the nation that Nyege nyege means sex in the Swahili language (Swahili is a lingua franca in Kenya, Tanzania, Congo, Rwanda, Burundi and in so many other countries). He therefore thought that this festival was to degrade the morals of his country with people openly having sex, same sex coitus and as well as nudity and bestiality…yes bestiality!

This miscommunication was therefore if not curbed going to cost Uganda lots of shillings as so many tourists flock the country for this festival and local service providers too were definitely going to lose out.

Why professional Translation services are the answer

This can be understandable since there are over 1500 indigenous languages in Africa and professional translation services are a savior in this.

All the above fracas would have been avoided in the event organizers had deemed it necessary to communicate the meaning of the Nyege nyege word to the country as a whole since the advertisements were running all over the social media platforms and mainstream media as well.

Anyone with a business venture all wanting to set up one in Africa ought to have the many languages there are and therefore hire professional translators and interpreters for purposes of effective communication.

Languages in Africa that have similar words although the meaning differs at times.

By Angela Kyolaba

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