Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Review: Ka'ya ta kutu'a kun Ñuu Savi

Title: Ka'ya ta kutu'a kun Ñuu Savi / Adivinanzas en mixteco, la lengua de la lluvia / Mixtec Riddles
Compiled by: Alejandra Cruz Ortiz
Illustrator: Octavio Moctezuma Vega
Publisher: Artes de México
Age Range: 4+

You might have noticed that bilingual books are (thankfully) somewhat easier to find these days, but have you ever seen a quintilingual book?  Well, guess what I found in Mexico.

Oh yes.

This colorful book of riddles offers readers brainteasers in five languages -- three varieties of Mixtec, Castilian Spanish, Catalan, and English.  For those of you who, like me, aren't super familiar with Mixtec, here's brief introduction from mixtec.org:
"Mixtec belongs to the Otomanguean group of Mesoamerican languages.  Proto-Otomanguean, the mother language, was spoken by hunters and gatherers in the region over 10,000 years ago.  A forerunner of contemporary Mixtec appeared some 7,000 years ago.
"It is misleading to talk about Mixtec language as a single, uniform system of oral and written communication.  By some estimates, there are thirty or even fifty variations of the language, some of which are very different from one another.  Residents of settlements separated by a few miles may only understand about 10-25% of what each other says [....]
"In the 500+ years since the arrival of Cortés, Mixtec has adopted or adapted Spanish words for which there are no Mixtec equivalents.  And today, because of the heavy migration between Oaxaca and the United States, Anglicisms are increasingly creeping into the language.  A startling, but no longer uncommon scenario in schools in the Mixteca [region were Mixtec is commonly spoken] is the following: A Spanish-only speaking teacher, educated in Mexico City, leads a classroom comprised of Mixtec-only speaking students, bilingual Mixtec-Spanish speakers, and bilingual Mixtec-English speakers."

Areas of Mexico where Mixtec languages are spoken

This passage illustrates how rich and complex languages are in Mexico.  With so many linguistic traditions coming together and mingling, it seems wise to create books like this one that recognize and utilize several of them together.  Also, I love how the book honors the Mixtec varieties -- which, sadly, some people view as useless or inferior -- by placing them first on the page instead of below Spanish or English, two more dominant, privileged languages.

Would you like a preview?  Here's a riddle:

Pinotepa, Oaxaca
Yu'u chavixi kuui vati chike nuu ndi'i ita
Chakan ñi ña'an kuniñi ko'oñi ñuñuyu
Ri saa ndio'o.

Xalpatláhuac, Guerrero
Visi ni vaku il chi
Xika ni'i nuu ita
Soo ndi'i na si'i ndiki na ko'o na ñuñu ii
Miñaa nada yo ku ii kuka'ndo.

Huajuapan, Oaxaca
Yu'u kuu iin ña v idji chii xikanuui tanuu,
tanuú ita ta ndi'i ña'a kutondodjo ñuñui kunina.

¿Ya sabes quién soy?
Chiquito de mil colores,
por el lugar de las nubes voy.
Del dulce de mil flores
me deleito con sus sabores.

Petit ocell multicolor
Vaig per les flors tastant sabors.
No pots endevinar qui sóc?

Even though I'm small in size,
I have many colors to delight the eyes.
I like to spend hours and hours
Drinking sweetness from the flowers.

And the answer is...

Yoo kuu yu'u: Saa ndio'o
Saa ndio va ku ii
Ndiyoo kuui. Ndiyo'o
El colibrí
El colibrí

Love it.  And just think of all the possibilities for using this book in your classroom or at home with your children.  You might discuss translation and issues of linguistic diversity and marginalization with older kids, or you might provide younger students with opportunities to write their own riddles in any language they want.

As for me, I'll be giving Ka'ya ta kutu'a kun Ñuu Savi to my friends who are raising their son to speak Catalan, Spanish, and English, because seriously -- how many North American-published books can you think of that include Catalan (another marginalized, persecuted language)?  If you'd like to snatch up a copy for yourself, you can order it directly from the publisher or buy it used through Amazon or Barnes & Noble.  Enjoy!

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