So let’s assume (it’s not happening, but let’s assume) the Njuri Ncheke are starting a newspaper and they need an editor. The one qualification you’d need is to be fluent in speech and have the ability to write in Kimeru, right?
So here’s your free pre-interview training. As with every language, Kimeru has its own specific rules when writing is involved.
As you may know, the Meru people are actually a community of 9 sections with 9 dialects: the Igoji, Imenti, Tigania, Mitine, Igembe, Mwimbi, Muthambi, Chuka and Tharaka.
The community is yet to standardise the language, so we shall have an analysis that offers a general outlook of things in the larger community. So terms and conditions apply. Alright, the pleasantries are done, so now let us see how you can hit on Kendi/Mwenda on Whatsapp by writing to her in Kimeru, yes?
1. The Kimeru Alphabet
As with every language, Kimeru has an alphabet made up of 23 letters: A,B,C,D,E,G,H,I,Ĩ,J,K,L,M,N,O,P,R,S,T,U,Ũ,W&Y. F,Q,V,X and Z have no space in the Meru language. So no F words here.
2. The Vowels
The Meru language, like most Bantu languages has less consonants than English (if we discount CH,MB,ND,NJ,NY,NG’&TH) but the language more vowels: that is, a,e,i,o,u,ĩ and ũ. That wavy hat on I and U is called a tilde. Ĩ is pronounced as /ay/. Like the sound in “day”. Ũ is pronounced as /oe/. Like the sound in “foe”. So Kimiru is actually Kĩmĩĩrũ. Watch out for the w, sometimes, it sounds like the ũ, and vice versa, in words like rwĩmbo, Mworia, tũĩte, tũĩje, kũĩria etc.
If you want to input the last two vowels into a word, from your computer, open any Microsoft program, go to “Insert” on the main menu, then click on “Symbol” to find the vowels. You can even add a shortcut key e.g. ALT+I to get Ĩ to make it easy for typing. For phones, smartphones specifically, long pressing I or U gives you the options where you can find the accented Ĩ and Ũ.
3. Say the word out loud
If you are writing Kĩmĩĩrũ for the first time, getting the accented vowels right is usually the trickiest bit. If it’s not right, ĩria (milk), ĩĩrĩa (that one) and ĩrĩa (that) would never be distinctive. You will also notice that intonation is vital in the Meru language. So ĩria could be milk, bathing or pasture depending on the intonation. To get the job done, start by saying the word out loud. So if your name is KIMATHI, we have KI|MA|THI. You will notice the I in KI is different from the one in THI. So it becomes Kĩmathi.
4. Watch out for the coupled vowels
Kĩmĩĩrũ has a number of instances where vowels come in twos. If you follow step 3, you will start noticing them. For instance, Mujwa is actually Mũũjwa and Materi is not even Matiri or Matĩri, rather it’s Matĩĩri. And Wega TV should be Weega TV. Other words that fall here include, Mũtĩĩria, maami, baaba, mwaarĩ, jũũjũ, nchoobi, thaara, thĩĩrĩ, nkaana, kaana, rũũjĩ, mũtaani and more.
5. Now write
The more you write, the better you get. And as we know, a language that is written never dies. Kwou ndĩona i bweega tũarie na tũandĩke Kĩmĩĩrũ gĩetũ. Long live Kimeru.
Here’s a quick quiz to start you off. Write your answers in the comment section and we may just surprise you with a Kĩmĩĩrũ gift!
- Write your name, your sibling(s)’s name and your parents’ names in Kĩmĩĩrũ
- Write a sentence about the food you ate last night in Kĩmĩĩrũ
- Write a stanza of your favourite Kĩmĩĩrũ song
- Write a message on your phone in Kĩmĩĩrũ and send to a friend or family member, show off!
- Write a complaint about how hard it must be writing Kimeru in Kĩmĩĩrũ! Good luck!