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|The Mende Language|
If you know the complete story of the Amistad, you know the story of Josiah Gibbs, a language professor at Yale University in New Haven. In a moving moment, Gibbs held up one finger to the Mende Africans. They said "e-ta," the Mende word for one. He held up two fingers. They said "fe-le." Gibbs learned to count to ten in the Mende tongue. Then he made several trips to New York City. He wandered the docks counting aloud in Mende until he finally found someone who could speak Mende and English. He brought that man, James Covey, to New Haven to serve as a translator for the Africans. Finally, their side of the story could be told!
Below are some words from the Mende vocabulary.
Numbers Body parts Animals People one e-ta arm lo-kwi | bird ngwaw-ni brother ndig-ge hin-du two fe-le ear gu-li | cat ma-gna-ri child do-le three sau-wa eye ngau-ma | cow ni-ke father ke four na-ni foot gaw-we | dog ngil-le friend ba-la five do-lu hair yum-boi | elephant he-li king ma-hai six we-ta head ngwi | fish gne mother ndshi seven waw-fe-la mouth nda | horse su-I sister ndig-ge ya-ha-lu eight wai-ya-gba nose ho-gbai | lion su-bu slave nduo nine ta-u tongue ne | sheep ba-le woman gna-pu ten pu tooth gong-gol-lu | monkey kwa-le Nature Other words fire ngom-gbi he ta grass dzha-te she ta moon nga-li what? be-gbe morning ngin-da when? mi-gbi night gbin-di where? min-du river ti who? yi-le star tum-be-le-gai drink gbaw-li sun fu-li eat me water dzhe-lo-wa sleep yi wind fe-fe walk dzhi-a