To Speak England in Different Languages
Tougouy Soko – Together – Amma Gina

Tougouy Soko – Together – Amma Gina

Written in Arabic, English, French, Gourane, and Zaghawa by S.


This poem tells the story of my journey from Chad to England. I arrived as an unaccompanied asylum-seeking child with many languages one and a half years ago. Each of my languages reflects an important stage of my journey, and a part of my identity. 


The first stanza is written in Zaghawa: this is a Chadian indigenous language, and is also my mother-tongue. I begin ‘First light sounds like Black Crowned Cranes singing…’

Awal daougi Tarfou kohoukohri,
Chay jir gira cuyor gou kidi, kiyeree itragirou kani gi ogour keyhou.
Nahra owour kehou, kiyeree eb kinora tinee kehou.
Tougouy koura teri kiyeree nahree tergi  tougouy ti teree.
Charmout souhoura dji ourgina kouwa gi li–aiygi chamardou, persdildou, seleridou.
Kehou, adad kourou nasouweree neri

While Zaghawa waits at home, Chadian Arabic greets us in the street with words that unite one hundred and twenty indigenous languages, and binds ninety percent of Chad’s population together, communicating the ideals of community in all our shared spaces.

نهار دا لس بكير وحس سياد المقذه قاى يرجونا معام تازه زبد تاذ بيسكويت تازمبه ذقاوه قاى يرجونا فى بيت
مشل اربي شادين قاى يسلومونه في شواري
مع كليمات اللمانه120 قبيله قاى
يليمه 90% هنا شعب تشاد كل يحجوا نفس الفكره
والشعب كل يقسموا في الشاري

Roosters call us to school where our teachers are waiting. Like ants, we all the follow the same path dressed in uniforms. We carry French back to our villages, where those who did not have the chance to leave are hungry for translation of the world’s news. 

Nous nous somme réveillons pour aller a l’école d’ou’ les proffereurs nous attentent après avoir ecouté les coqs chantent.
Comme les fourmis, nous empruntons le meme chemin et habillés en uniforme.
Seul les sacs qui nous différencients et nous retournos au village la langue francaise, ceux qui n’ont pas eu la chance de partir, ils sont affamés de traduction car les nouvelles de troubles au Tchad sont souvent en francais. Donc, nos lecons sont importants.
Justement, nous sommes fatigués et affamés après une longue d’apprentissage
alors nos premiers mots sont adressés a nos meres: “quelle nourriture ya t’il a manger”? 

Mornings in England start with ‘sabah el kheir’ and pigeons cooing. I stand on unfamiliar ground, where we speak the same words but use different sounds, and I am understood less than I am used to. This is Syrian Arabic: this was the language my foster family in England spoke. 

يبدا الصباح في انجلترا مع صباح الخير وصوت الحمام
اقف في مجموعه غير مالوفه حيث نتحدث نفس الكلمات
ولكننا نستخدم اصواتا مختلفه وانا غير واثق بدرجه اقل مما اعتدت عليه
لقد اكتسبت هذه اللغه من خلال شاشات التلفزيون في تشاد
ولكن في رحلتي هنا تعلمت اجعلها لغتي
افهم ما يكفي لمعرفه انهم يتحدثون عني

I find myself here when I am speaking English. Finally, I have arrived.
Happily, I complain about the weather, apologise profusely,
I am greeted in the streets by strangers with a smile and a ‘hi!’
This is a nation of mothering people: my own mom is not here, but I feel she is close.
New friends and teachers find me through English,
I can see a path forming, leading me towards a future where I will become a doctor.

I live in England now, but news keeps part of myself in Chad, where those that are greedy for power try to split my country in two. Zagahawa and Gourane are told to be enemies. I am Zagahawa, but this last stanza is written in Gourane. This is the language of memory and of friends. With both languages on my tongue, I know we are one. 

Tani britaniya yii tchirou tani aslorro Tchadien.
Iyoh onnou inni tchad dro tigusitchagna dawgreyey,
iyoh ounnou amma ara houkoumou da tchika nima girtchi ndikartchiki.
Iyoh kindjila dro gourou ennemis inditchiki bila tani ingne
Dazzagharaa miré lougha Tchad ginno iyoh amma ginna noukoudounk te djillah
Tchadien guinna trone tinda guinna trone gunna ahala iyoh Tchad Tchadienna gunnao 


This poem is namedTougouy Soko – Together – Amma Gina’, which translates the word ‘Together’ into Zaghawa and then Gourane. This poem is not just about my own experience; this poem, as the title suggests, is about the importance of existing together, alongside one another in all our different languages, because this means we can see the world as others do, and therefore understand it better.

Published May 26, 2022
© S. 2021

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