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Cawyaŋ Zarma Sanni

Boys on a donkey cart in a Zarma village in western Niger
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Grammar help

Months, seasons, year

A year (jiiri) has four seasons (waati taaci) that differ from the seasons in western Europe. A year has twelve month (handu way nda hinka), but there is a traditonal Islamic calender. However, also the Roman calender is used.

Islamic calender




The traditional Zarma names of the months (handu yaŋ) are linked to the Islamic lunar calendar. However many Zarma don't know the names of the month of this calendar, especially the first six. Everyone knows the fast month (me haw), and the month of the sacrifice (cimsi), but probably not one in ten could recite to you the whole twelve. Most how now are older people (dottijey).

A lunar month begins with the first day the new moon is visible. This is not at what we call 'new moon'.

Lunar and Islamic calendar
Lunar / Islamic Zarma Literal translation Alternative
 1st / 5th dadabu beeri big grope around dadab beri
 2nd / 6th dadabu kayna small grope around dadab kayna
 3rd / 7th gaani dance gani
 4th / 8th gaani banda after dance gani banda
5th / 9th bine kuna inside the heart binkuna
6th / 10th bambana -  
7th / 11th way zeeno me haw old woman mouth tie up way zeno
8th / 12th ce konno warm foot ce wasso (D)
 9th / 1st me haw mouth tie up  
10th / 2nd me feri mouth untie  
11th / 3rd fulanzam to rest  
12th / 4th cimsi not truth (Tabaski) cibsi
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Roman calender

In daily life often the Roman calendar is used as well. The names are derived from the French pronunciation of the names of the months.
Roman calendar
number Zarma* French English
1 janeru janvier January
2 faberu févier February
3 marsu mars March
4 afrillu avril April
5 mayu mai May
6 yuni juin June
7 yuli juillet July
8 agusta août August
9 satumba septembre September
10 oktoba octobre October
11 nuwamba novembre November
12 disamba décembre December

* information provided by Hadji Somaco Pastor (Antwerp, Belgium)

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Expressions with month

There are several ways in Zarma to express last month, next month, et cetera.
Zarma English
handu month (also: moon)
handu wo this month
handu kan bu last month
handu teeji next month; next moon
handu beene month after next
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The seasons (waati yaŋ) in land locked semi arid Niger are determined by occurrence or absence of rain and the temperature. There are no fixed dates for the beginning or the end of a season. Seasons are unequal of length among themselves, and their individual length may vary from one year to another. For example, the rainy season may start as early as April or as late as July, depending on when the rains actually start.
Zarma Type of season Normal period Activities
hayni, hayno hot and dry March - May preparation of fields
kaydiya warm and rainy June - September farming season
hemar, hemaro warm and dry October harvest season
jaw, jawo
  (hargu, hargo)
cold and dry November - February non-farming activities

Information about the climate in western Niger in cities along the river

Gaya (west, south)
Niamey (west, central)
Tillabéri (west, north)

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The Zarma society is mainly a Islamic calendar. Therefore the months (handu yaŋ) are linked to the lunar Islamic calendar. A year (jiiri) is about 10 days (zaari way or jirbi way) shorter using the Islamic lunar calendar than when using the solar calendar. And so the various feast days shift backwards that many days each year.

There are several words in Zarma to express last year, next year, et cetera.

Zarma English
jiiri year (for counting years)
yeesi next year
yeesi fo year after next
jiiri wo, haraŋ this year
mannaŋ last year
mannaŋ fo another last year, usually two years
mannaŋ fo wongo 3 years ago
mannaŋ fo a jiiri iddu haraŋ a previous year, it 's 6 years ago this year
Kaa Yeesi ! May next year come !
Irikoy m´iri cabe yeesi ! May God show us next year !
Irikoy m´iri cabe yeesi nda baani ! May God show us next year in health !
Irikoy m´iri cabe yeesi mansaŋcine ! May God show us next year as of now !
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      Dico Fraters, the Netherlands © 2004-2016      
Last updated: 20 Januari, 2016