ჯუჯები ქართულ!

ხურო ჯუჯები

დილიდან ხურო ჯუჯები გამალებით მუშაობენ თავიანთ პატარა სახელოსნოში.  ქუჩაში გამაყრუებელი ხმაური გამოდის.  იცით, რამდენი საქმე აქვთ?!  ჯერ ციყვს წიგნის თაროები უნდა გამოუჩარხონ, მერე ეჭედელ ჯუჯას – მაგიდა და სკამები.  იმ კუს კი, ხუროებს ისე რომ ამხიარულებს, ახალ სკეიტბორდს უმზადებენ.

[Carpenter Gnomes

In the morning, carpenter gnomes are aggressively working in their small workshop.  A deafening noise comes out into the street.  Do you know how much work they have?!  A squirrel carves out a bookshelf, then the blacksmith gnome – a table and chairs.  The turtle, finding carpentry is so exhilarating, is making new skateboards.]  (Or something like that.)

I was walking by a stand in front of a little mall opposite Xiamen University’s west gate (the main gate) and this caught my eye:

Gnomes

“That looks like Georgian”, I said to myself.  I opened the book, and sure enough, beautiful Georgian script filled the pages.

First page

Since I first became aware of the script I’ve had it in the back of my mind to learn it and a little of the language, but didn’t have a serious enough excuse until now (it doesn’t take much).  The script is actually not very difficult.  The two and a half notable things about the pronunciation are that you can string quite a lot of consonants together in ways that you might not expect, and that it has ejectives!  According to Wikipedia, the ejectives are followed by creaky-voiced vowels.  This would make the ejectives different in nature from what I’ve heard in some African languages, where the articulation of the ejective and the following vowel don’t actually connect.

Anyway, my phone has Georgian as a keyboard option (I’m running CyanogenMod 7, which is a modification of the Andriod 2.3.3 operating system), so I quickly made an Anki deck to learn the letters.

I used Google Translate (also on my phone) to look up ჯუჯები (jujebi /dʒudʒebi/ gnomes).  It took a while going through the process of elimination to figure out that the first and third letters were ჯ.  Then I spent a little time the next couple days using it to try to figure out what the text on the first page said.  Google Translate has a virtual keyboard with a couple of different layouts, so you can type without installing the keyboard on your computer.  It doesn’t translate Georgian very well, apparently, but it gives alternate translations.  I also found this online Georgian-English dictionary.

I translated the first page based on the meanings of the words/roots I was getting from the dictionary.  I haven’t yet looked into the grammar (other than the brief description on the Wikipedia page describing the language).  But I will.  It’s quite gratifying to be able to get the facts about a language so fast.  I remember when I was a child in the 70s, reading The Lord of the Rings and wanting to learn Quenya.  I started making a dictionary from words that I found in the appendices.  I had no idea what grammar was, and had absolutely no success in moving forward.  Now it’s amazing the things we have access to.  It’s pure joy to have a healthy interest these days.  Instant gratification for curious minds.  Viva technology!

6 Responses to “ჯუჯები ქართულ!”

  1. I love that there’s no English to this post visible anywhere on the main page.

  2. Syz says:

    Comment by email from “Ron”:

    Interesting as this may be, what does this have to do with China or Chinese?

  3. It has nothing to do with Chinese, but this blog is not about the Chinese language(s) per se, but rather “language in China”, and I found this language here in China. Glad you think it’s interesting!

  4. Syz says:

    I had the same double-take as Ron, but then realized I knew about the whole “language in China” thing ;)

    My questions were more along the lines of “Why Georgian? Why a kid’s book in Georgian (as opposed to, say, a grammar / bilingual vocabulary book)? Why a Xiamen bookseller?!” Did you ask the owner if he was above water on that sku?

  5. Why Georgian?

    I think I kind of answered that in the post — it caught my eye. I like the script and I had never seen a Georgian book before.

    Why a kid’s book in Georgian (as opposed to, say, a grammar / bilingual vocabulary book)?

    That would have been better, but this kid’s book was the only thing that he had.

    Why a Xiamen bookseller?!

    Because that’s where I live!

    Did you ask the owner if he was above water on that sku?

    No. This bookseller is just a large outside stall. He specializes in foreign books. Most of them are English, but I see books in German, French, Japanese, Korean, and other languages that one might expect to see in a Chinese foreign bookstore selling to expat communities. But it was very surprising to see a book in Georgian. I can’t imagine why he would have a book like that.

  6. There’s a great used book store in Shanghai near the Tiánzǐfāng 田子坊 neighbourhood which has a great deal of foreign language books. By the very nature of being a used book store, they get a lot of really bizarre stuff. I don’t remember seeing Georgian there but I have seen some equally baffling languages represented. Someone buys some books in their home country, their kids outgrow it or never liked it to begin with, and it gets filtered down that way.

    This book looks to be in pretty good condition based on the photos, so that may not be the case here, but I’m guessing that he pretty much takes what he can find in terms of foreign language books. In this case at least it paid off.

    I’m quite proud of myself for not doing the double take. But then I think I push the ‘language in China’ rule to its limits often enough myself.

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