All my best wishes to language lovers--and the ones who teach them!

All my best wishes to language lovers–and the ones who teach them!

Last week I was inspired to meet many language teachers and representatives of educational organizations. I also had the honor of presenting to them. (Preparing for my talk, I took a break from learning new Somali so I just reviewed vocabulary.)

Friday I went to present at the 2014 annual conference of the Minnesota Council on the Teaching of Languages and Culture (MCTLC). The group consists mainly of K-12 (that is, elementary, middle, and high school) teachers of languages. Since this is Minnesota, USA, the most significant language is Spanish, followed by French, and also English for non-native speakers. I also met several Chinese and Japanese teachers and two Swedish teachers, too.
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You need every tool, but no tool fixes everything.

You need every tool, but no tool fixes everything.

All my different language-learning materials play a different role. I currently use flashcards, books, articles in the language, and helpful friends. I clarified this last week the specific role each one plays in my learning process.

I took a different tack for working on Somali this week. I didn’t look at my normal book, La soco af soomaaliga, at all, but went through my flash cards (almost) every day. Instead of a textbook, I found a news article and worked on translating it. Simply translating native-level texts, though, was harder than I thought it would be. Thanks to these roadblocks, though, I learned a lot about where my weaknesses lie.
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What does a kitchen in Somalia look like?

What does a kitchen in Somalia look like?

Moving deeper into Somali, I’m discovering more unique, beautiful features of this language. The way of life coupled with grammatical features continue to reveal how exciting this language is. Discovering new verb formations and glimpsing into a Somali kitchen excited my curiosity. At the same time, I think I’m getting exhausted by my rate of vocabulary study; I literally fell asleep on the couch last night with my Anki app. My brain is crying out for different stimuli.
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Yes, camel's milk. Cheers!

Yes, camel’s milk. Cheers!

What would it be like to live in Somalia, or even just to visit? What would strike me about the culture? Since love is learning to live with quirks that sometimes rub me the wrong way (in my humble opinion), what would I love about Somalia?

I know that I would love their helpfulness. I’ve found so many people already who want to help me with the language and who love doing so. I’m already grateful.

I wonder how I would love Somali hospitality. As an American, I love my space, but I sometimes feel lonely. I’ve found that Eastern forms of hospitality assume that people should be together, that being alone might indicate a problem. The negotiation between guest and host operates constantly. I love Eastern hospitality, but I know that as an American, I feel some tension with it. As an extrovert, I’m glad to experience cultures that value highly connecting with others, so I’ve tended to enjoy myself. If my lessons this week accurately represent Somali culture, I can see that Somalis are wonderfully hospitable. I look forward to experiencing it one day.

I have a couple questions about grammar this week (below), if anyone has a moment to help me. Thank you!
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Do you look like a pumpkin? Is that a good thing?

Do you look like a pumpkin? Is that a good thing?

Studying Somali brings me joy. I love discovering this language. Granted, I’m like Christopher Columbus, “discovering” people who didn’t know they needed discovering; I’m not exactly a pioneer. Nevertheless, my “discoveries” bring my mind to a world that at least I didn’t know, coming in contact with people so much like me, yet from a life that is so different. The newness of contact envigorates me.

This week I didn’t study as much as I planned, but I still had the opportunity to see a new landscape. I learned about a market filled with mango, goat meat, and pumpkins. I also got to see new ways of ordering language, of expressing oneself. Maybe my dear readers would like to help me with some of the sticking points I came across this week? This never gets old for me!
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Coffee is the "brown" of Africa

Coffee is the “brown” of Africa

“Are you going to eat?” This is my spontaneous Somali phrase I came up with as I bumped into a Somali friend in the cafeteria at work. I left out the mood particle (see below), but he understood me. Hooray for a victory!

Speaking of eating, I learned a little about coffee this week. “Coffee” is the stereotypical brown color in North Africa, it seems.

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How do you greet people in Somali? At what time?

How do you greet people in Somali? At what time?

This week I noticed some cool facts about time in Somali, namely, how they tell time, name the days, and greet each other. I also found some parallels with other languages I know. I think the latter might help some of my readers. Since I’ve studied a lot of languages, I’m able to see some interesting parallels that may help others to skip some steps in trying to learn these facets of Somali. I find it fascinating when I find some peculiar construction in a language, and then stumble upon it unexpectedly in a totally unrelated language. “This looks familiar!” always gets me excited.
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