Languages bring me into a world I do not understand and reveal complexities I never imagined. Sometimes I feel like Darwin in the Galapagos. Study and observation bring me joy, and when I immerse myself in these complex phenomena, I discover deeper truths. The more complexity, the more beauty, even if comprehension eludes me. And exploring the facets of language lead me to the subtle dynamics of the culture around it. Read More
Good teachers don’t mind watching students struggle. Some even purposely cause their students to struggle. When it is time for the student to progress, the teacher pushes the student ruthlessly until the student gets to the next level. The student may not believe in himself or herself, but the teacher does, and so opposes the stubborn self-doubt of the student. As my brilliant 7th grade math teacher, Ms. Leona Penner, said, “Patience is for the birds.” This award-winning teacher believed that coddling students prevented them from reaching their potential. Learning requires struggling through discomfort, and the only comfort comes from inevitable progress that results from struggle.
Writing this week’s post surprised me. My languages brought me into a mental space, I found out, where I recognized my need for “dangerous” language situations that potentially make me look stupid or annoying. Moreover, my strange, unique language love compels me into these fantastic experiences. I’m a language misfit, which leads me to connect with unexpected, unlikely people, resulting in great joy.
I’m living the polyglot dream. This term was coined by Lucas Lampariello at his blog by the same name, and I mean by it that I managed to keep my love of language at the forefront of my mind and found many opportunities for and much joy in immersing myself in languages. While I set aside time this week to be sure I was working hard on Somali, I kept my ears open when I could speak or listen to other languages. I managed to engage Somali, Amharic, Spanish, French, Russian, Portuguese, and Dutch.
Here’s what I intended to do with Somali this week: work on exercises for chapters 1-4 of my book and study vocabulary every day. Maybe I would have a Skype call with a teacher or even take a trip downtown to a Somali coffee shop.
Here’s what I did this week. I studied vocabulary every day and I got half-way through chapter 1 of my book. (I plan to work on more of the book today.)
What happened? Life happened. Read More
Without my languages I feel anxious and unfulfilled. While I don’t have a lot of time for Somali, I feel the need every day to work on my language, even if it’s five minutes of Anki flash cards or four minutes scanning BBC Somali headlines of which I may only grasp a few words.
Fortunately, I found a Somali teacher who will work with me over Skype. He is very knowledgable about the Somali language, and he has experience teaching foreigners. I am very grateful that he is willing to work with me. Part of me still asks: Will this sustain my language love? Will Skype provide the connection I need?
This week, language love came to my rescue and brought me joy in a moment of stress and anxiety. Work was difficult, and took up a lot of time, causing me stress. I missed my language tables as a result, so I didn’t get to experience much language. I had to go work at offices in different areas, where I luckily got to mix with new people. On the way to a meeting I heard a guy working at a food stand speaking Arabic to another man as I was walking by. On the way back to my car after the meeting, I said to him, “Ahlan! Masa ilkheir!” (“Hi! Good afternoon!”) Business was slow for him in the mid-afternoon, so he gave me a can of Coke and told me to sit down.
The lack of resources available for learning Somali weighs on me. I listen to polyglots talking about spending such-and-such amount of time daily working on their language. However, they’re learning Russian, Portugues, Chinese, or whatever–languages that offer many resources for learning. I have to work to produce sources that I can use before I can study them, which becomes overwhelming.
Moreover, focusing on languages struggled with work, other writing projects, and a busy home life this week. For example, I just forgot to look at my vocab deck yesterday. I’m grateful to have spent some time on Somali, even if it’s less than I would have liked.
Rather than be negative, though, I want to think about what I can do, without a big budget or tons of spare time. I do have some decent materials, and I can continue to learn from friends. I simply don’t have the resources to spend 30-60 minutes per day on Somali; I just want to use my time as best as I can. Using what I have well and producing the material I’d like to have are where to start. Read More