As soon as I quit chasing happiness, I can be happy.

I can be happy today, if I see how good my life is.

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

A simple chat with a stranger saved me this week!

A simple chat with a stranger saved me this week!

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.
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I'm looking to fill the bookcase with Somali.

I’m looking to fill the bookcase with Somali.

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

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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