mangu mangu


Mangu mangu: Luganda for fast or quickly. (For some reason this pair of corresponding words feels improbable to me; maybe it’s because it’s not a very speedy word to say.)

I learned the word this summer while in language school, relatively late in my Luganda learning for such a basic and frequently used word. While reflecting on it at the time, I realized that it was sort of apropos that I had learned the word for slow (mpola mpola, similar to Swahili’s pole pole) so much earlier than mangu mangu. While life in Kampala is certainly a lot of hustle and bustle, I find that the overall pace of things is a bit slower than here in the US. While I’ve certainly had a lot of reasons to ask for someone to do something mangu mangu while living in Kampala, I never have, and instead I’d learned to go with the flow and be patient with the pace of things. Indeed, asking a boda boda driver to drive mpola mpola was a much more useful word to have in my vocabulary than anything to encourage speed.

But back here in my daily American life, mangu mangu sure is relevant. This semester has flown by, and I have felt like I’ve been sprinting alongside it the entire time. The pace of my other classes has had a couple of different effects on my Luganda study. On the one hand, the sheer quantity of reading, writing, and discussion leading I’ve had for my other classes has made it challenging to ensure that Luganda does not get lost in the mix. Some weeks were obviously better than others on that front. However, I do much better at managing my time when things are busy, so in some ways the constant pressure of the other assignments kept me working hard across the board, Luganda included.

This past week is a good example of this. I had a final paper due for my economics class that ended up taking most of my energy. I kept my commitments to meet with my language partner twice, as per my ISP, and I did a good amount of preparatory work before those meetings. I also did my usual daily routines and small little bits of Luganda here and there, but I couldn’t spend as much focused Luganda time as I would’ve liked. However, the go-go-go nature of the week motivated me to at least do some Luganda every day, mostly in the spirit of ticking off boxes from my to-do list.

My progress also seemed to continue mangu mangu, though evaluating how quickly I’m advancing is always a little hard to judge. This past week, I had an extended conversation with my language partner about something (though now what, exactly, I can’t remember), and he ended the exchange with an extended chuckle to himself. When I asked him what was funny he told me that I was making really good progress and that I’d soon be overtaking another student of his, an advanced student who has lived in Kampala for several years now and has been studying regularly throughout that time. While those comments make me feel really good about myself, I definitely wonder about their accuracy. As much as I feel like I am keeping up the pace and making progress, I don’t exactly feel like I’m leaping and bounding and well on my way to complete and total fluency. And while there are certainly many elements of the language I feel I’ve strengthened over this past semester, the advances I’ve made feel hard-won after weeks of work, not exactly like speedy progress.

Regardless, after a semester full of moving mangu mangu and kukola nnyo (working a lot), I am really looking forward to a bit of a break. I’ll be keeping up with my daily Quizlet practice and probably talking my poor mom’s ear off about Luganda, but I do hope to be able to unplug a little bit. After all, soon enough, it’ll be back to life in the mangu mangu lane.


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