Week 8 of Loving Somali: Not enough books

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.

  1. I switched books. I went to Colloquial Somali, by Martin Orwin. It’s the best for a fresh learner of the language. As I mentioned two posts ago, I need more grammar than La soco offers. It has many dialogues with translations followed by grammar explanations. There are a few exercises for the grammar section. Thankfully, I noticed that many of the vocabulary overlaps with La soco.

    Just to show how small the world of Somali-learning is, Martin Orwin is a Somali poetry translator on staff at the Poetry Translation Centre, which I blogged about previously.

  2. Looking at the work of Liban Ahmad. This is someone I met on-line, and more than anyone I’ve seen, he writes actively and consistently about Somali grammar. He is a UK-based Somali. Please support him and check out his ebook, Somali Grammar Revision. I find his explanations and categorizations very helpful, and he answers many of my questions.
  3. I still don’t get “ah.” According to Orwin, this is a relative marker–“which” or “that” in English. In Week 4 I mentioned this particle. That week I had asked a Twitter friend about the particle, as it often appears with “oo”. I’ve seen it several times with “oo” since then. This week I asked a couple Somali friends in town what the difference is between these two sentences, other than that the first is more grammatical. (The first comes directly from Orwin.) They couldn’t tell me; can you? (Full disclosure: Mr. Ahmad told me his explanation.)
    Koob shah ah samee!
    Koob shah samee!
  4. Anyone want to write a new Somali learner’s textbook? I would love to put together a Pimsleur-style audio course on Somali, just based on brief dialogues. My idea is to focus on dialogues that would benefit those of us who live among Somalis, and bump into them at the store, at the airport, or at our work. Unlike Pimsleur, though, I’d like to have a grammar supplement that would explain the phonolgy and syntactic structures that go along with the dialogues. Would anyone like to collaborate on that?

I haven’t studied a language before with so few resources. I hadn’t thought that half the challenge of learning Somali would be finding and creating things to work on in my study time.

What do you use for learning your language? Have you ever had to create your own material?

Where do you find time to study your language when all the other cares of the world creep in? Do you set aside breaks from language study, or do you use all the time you can?


10 thoughts on “Week 8 of Loving Somali: Not enough books

  1. Pingback: Week 9 of Loving Somali: Language love to my rescue | Loving Language

    1. Oh, yes! I know that Kurdish has lots of material on line, but I imagine there are a ton of dialects. I also imagine that textbooks are probably as common as Somali ones.

      But Greenlandic would be another issue. Are there any materials on line in Greenlandic? I think that finding a Kurd living close by would be easier than finding a Greenlander close by.

      What have you been using for these languages?


  2. I totally sympathize with you. One of my coworkers is from Ethiopia and was raised speaking Oromo. I thought it would be fun to learn some common sayings in Oromo to shout out at him when we passed each other in the hallway. There are NO learning materials whatsoever for Oromo. What is even more amazing is that Oromo is the most widely spoken language in Ethiopia (not Amharic) and the fourth most commonly spoken African language after Arabic, Swahili and Hausa! I feel your pain!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Learning from immigrants through Language Love – Loving Language

  4. Hi,

    You mentioned, “I still don’t get “ah.””

    ‘ah’ is a relative marker meaning “which (is)/that (is) or which (are/that (are)” in English.

    “Koob shaah ah samee” is correct and it means, ‘Bring me a cup which/that (is) tea.’

    The use of the particle ‘ah’ with the particle ‘oo.’ For example,

    Laba kiilo oo sonkor ah.
    Two kilos which/that are sugar (literal translation)
    Two kilos of sugar.

    Shan kiish oo daqiiq ah
    Five sacks which/that are flour (literal translation)
    Five sacks of flour.

    ‘oo’ in the above example means ‘which.’

    ‘oo’ also has other uses and is not accompanied by ‘ah.’

    I hope this helps,


      1. Hi,

        You stated that, “The combo oo/ah is still a bit confusing.” OK, please look at this example which may shed some light on this,

        Somalis generally begin a public speech by introducing themselves by saying,

        Aniga oo ah Maxamad…

        The literal translation would be

        I who am/is Mohammed…

        Although in English it would translated as, “My name is Mohammed.”

        Another example of the combination ” oo ah’

        Macallin wanaagsan oo ka mid ah macallimiinta Jaamacadda ayaa la eriyay.

        … oo ka mid ah… (Who is one of…)

        A good teacher who is one of the university teachers was fired.

        I how this helps.

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.