Chechen is the official language of Chechnya and is included in UNESCO’s Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger as a vulnerable language.
Last week, our team member Tamara interviewed our Chechen teacher Emil – read what he has to say about his language and culture and learn how to say ‘I love you’ in Chechen!
T: Can you tell us something about yourself ?
E: My name is Emil Magomedov, I’m from the Chechen Republic, Russia. I live in Grozny which is the capital of Chechnya. My native language is Chechen but also I speak Russian, Kumyk and English. I currently work for Mixed Martial arts promotional organization “ACB”. I like to gather with friends to play football and have coffee in the city centre. Moreover, I visit classes of MMA and Arabic language. My biggest passion is travelling around the world which allows me to discover new cultures and meet new people.
I love my republic, culture and our unique traditions; Tribalingual is the best way to share all the beauties of Chechen customs and traditions, enclosed within a small territory of Chechnya, with people from all over the world. I want to give a better look inside, to change minds regarding Chechnya in a positive, more open way.
T: Tell us something about the course you teach at Tribalingual?
E: Chechen language is exceptionally beautiful and unique but at the same time has an extremely complex grammar system. It is spoken by approximately 1.4 million Chechens around the world. However, the majority of Chechen speakers are located in Chechnya itself.
It is a Northern Caucasian language which has various dialects depending on the geographical position within the republic.
The Chechen writing system has been influenced from Arabic alphabet to Russian Cyrillic. In this course, I teach the language in the Russian Cyrillic alphabet.
Regarding grammar, unlike most other Caucasian languages, Chechen has a large inventory of vowels and diphthongs, all vowels can either be long or short. Length of vowel is significant, since it makes a difference in meaning.
In the course, I also introduce students to well known Chechen traditions and customs – even though we take these customs for granted, I can guarantee foreigners will find them surprising! As well as this, I give a deeper insight into the history of the Chechen people, to give our students a holistic look into the Chechen community.
T: What are some of the most interesting cultural events in your community?
E: One of the most interesting cultural event in Chechnya is called “Lovzar”.
Lovzar can be translated as Chechen Games. On “Lovzar”, Chechens dance and sing traditional songs, they jump and walk on ropes, take part in horse competitions and climb up the pole. There is also free wrestling and archery. Chechens used to arrange “Lovzar” at every opportunity. This is the arrival of the guest, a birthday, a wedding, when a soldier returns from service in the army and at the birth of a child. Nowadays, Lovzar mainly takes place at weddings and includes dancing and singing.
T: What should people visit in Chechnya?
E: When people come to Chechnya, they need to visit the Museum-aul of Dondi-Yurt. They should also watch the Chechen races in Gudermes; admire the towers, take a walk at Nihaloevsky waterfalls, visit the Chechen castle Phakoch; explore the ancient village of Hoi An and sail on lake Kezenoy-Am. There’s quite a bit to see.
T: What are the specific habits, values and norms that a traveller should be aware of?
E: Let’s start with the month in which you visit Chechnya. It is the month of Ramadan – in this month the Chechens (like all Muslims of the world) fast and are pretty strict: you cannot eat anything, you cannot drink, smoke, chew gum etc. Of course, you can meet people on the streets of Grozny who smoke a cigarette or drink water, but you have to know that this is not very polite. For sure, you will not find public catering establishments during the daytime. Or rather, you will find them closed.
If you are a woman and you visit the Chechen Republic, you should know that in Chechnya you do not wear miniskirts or fitted jeans (in fact Chechen women do not tend to wear trousers at all), translucent blouses with open decollete, short t-shirts exposing the stomach and the like. Try to dress modestly, not defiantly.
If you are a man, you should know that Chechens have adats, unwritten laws. According to the Chechen adats, a man is not allowed to walk with a bare chest, this is the extreme degree of debauchery. It is also not recommended to wear sleeveless t-shits or shorts – just wear trousers.
Respect for elders is also very important in Chechnya. It is not polite to cross the road in front of an old person, you have to let him pass first.
It is not polite to ask the whereabouts of the toilet of the representatives of the opposite sex. In general, subjects of a purely intimate or sexual nature between different sexes are not discussed. And you can forget about swearing!
Women in the Chechen Republic do not smoke. Therefore, if you are a woman, and you urgently need to smoke, then do it in a place where no one will see you: in the car, in the house, in a separate cafe booth.
Men can smoke. But with the appearance of an elderly person, it is better to hide a cigarette behind your back. Chechnya respects advanced age.
Shaking hands with Chechen girls is not acceptable. Limit yourself with a verbal greeting. In general, do not touch the girl in any way.
T: How do you say “I love you” in your language?
E: Суна хьо веза (suna ho veza) – to a man or Суна хьо еза (suna ho eza) – to a woman!
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