Voice recorders are great things. Every day or two we’re using them to record phrases, stories, explanations and vocabulary lists. Often we record things above our current level and we’re able to come back to it later.

One such story was this little myth about how Sigol and Peme – ancestors of the Kovol people, possibly even the first people (they’re not sure) saw how the birds lived in homes and decided to steal them. This explains why people are civilized and live in houses, and birds live out in the jungle.

It’s still very challenging to transcribe and translate these little 1-3 minute stories. A minute of text will take an hour at a computer playing it over and over piece by piece to transcribe into written Kovol text. Then I print it off and sit with some guys for an hour and a half or two hours or so, playing piece by piece and correcting my first draft.

I find that very often words fly by and the brand new word I thought I heard “omulee” turns out to be “obob leb” (get and come), spoken super fast and slurred!
At times our helpers like to correct what was originally spoken to remove mistakes by the speaker or “to make it sound better”

I go back, correct my first draft, print the second draft and spend another half an hour or so with another group checking again.

Unrelated image of washing up being done at the river

By then it’s “good enough for now”, certainly not perfect! I’m sure in a year or so I’ll be going through all these making spelling corrections left, right and centre!

Anyway, enjoy having a listen to how the Kovol language sounds:

Sibil tells about how his ancestors stole houses from the birds

enn tatagum tomond og tebemind Sigol ogi Peme nog tebi nim sombogol alaga pee ogoo agamemind hulum sindee, ab hulum sindee agamot agambi at igita nobug wo ogoo ilamind ilwasi ogo tolob wog tol nobug wegigee nobug wegigee tol ombo mohis om tebi tol agamot igita wo isom ilamind ogoo mesee mesee ilib ogo tolob olob ogo tolob om teb amindo mohis ab obob, tol obob, mohis agamot igita ogo telebi nobug teb ologat eleb yamind nobug wegigee tol ab ogoo mohis agamot igita teb nobug otolo yat om ab mohis nombo agambi onn undum agambi nombo igu yam agambi onn undum hes sondugulot, undum ombul hutam, undum ombul hutam nom ingil, wa, yanging undum ombul mohis hes sondugulot, wa famli nombo ilib agabi elemind hobol om sagul negenn nononn endetenn egee angom tatagum hot wog hobol egee amisi miginngom yam nom egee angom ig hobol obo egee amot om egenn

The Kovol text in case you feel like trying to follow along

My grandfather and grandmother came. Sigol and Peme, our ancestors, they came to a Sombogol Alaga tree with a hollow in it. They lived in Hulum Sindee. They were there and they saw the Wegigee birds. The birds left their homes to go to a singsing, and the people went into their house and stayed there. While the people were there the birds had gone up the mountain and they were happily dancing. The birds started fighting, breaking up the singsing and they came home to find that people had taken their home and were staying there. The birds had to leave and they became wild. People took the Wegigee birds’ house and stayed there and the birds went out into the jungle. The people stayed and bore children. The people bore a firstborn, a second born and a third born called Ingil, Wa and Yanging. Two of the children bore families and Wa, the third, bore a big family.

The talk is enough, I’ve come to the mark and it’s like that, like I’ve spoken. That’s what my ancestors spoke and I heard and I’ve spoken it.

The loose English translation

I’m sure you have questions. Questions like:

  • Do people believe this literally happened?
  • What did people live in before they stole the birds’ house?
  • What kind of house are we talking about?
  • What was Hulum Sindee like?
  • How long ago is this thought to have happened?
  • Are there other origin/myth stories?

The answer to all those questions is… I dunno. Well, why don’t I ask? I have, the answers were… vague.

I’m on to my next story now. Dramat’s cat got caught in a noose trap and died, leaving 5 newborn kittens, who also died despite Dramat’s best efforts to feed them and got thrown into the bushes. Jungle life ay?

In other news, we bandaged up a kid’s toe (and started him on antibiotics) this week:

Don’t hit your toes with machetes…

1 Comment

Lois S · 19/08/2022 at 2:28 am

Wow! That is an interesting story. Thanks for including the recording as well. It gives an additional amount of sympathy for trying to transcribe and understand it. I am guessing that the people were living in the jungle like the birds do now– they traded places, since the people had the birds’ house. The people were wild and the birds were civilized. The story has a few similarities to the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Many differences, too, obviously.

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