Persistence paid off. Please forgive the cliche, but I’ve been trying to manifest in the past several posts—at least to myself—the progress I’ve been able to make over many months. This week I:
- found a local teacher;
- carried on a decent conversation;
- dedicated some time every day to study; and
- won a Somali grammar contest.
An additional truth came to me this week: I can’t do this alone. If it weren’t for my on-line tutor and my new conversation partner—not to mention my friends at work—my progress would be even slower than it is. I’m very grateful for these supporters I have.
A new teacher
I had to put off this post because I had the opportunity Sunday afternoon to have a lesson with a Somali native speaker. Living in the US capital of Somali diaspora, this would sound easy to arrange. In fact, this has taken me many months to make happen—and I’m overjoyed it happened.
The good—and surprising—news is that I was able to carry a decent conversation in Somali. Granted, my grammar was hideous and I stumbled for words, but it happened: I was able to say something resembling everything I wanted to say.
My teacher, Hassan, did a good job helping me along. I would say something. He would respond, to which I replied with a blank look, a shrug of the shoulders, or a shake of the head. He led me through what I said, how I could have said it, and how he answered. I would write it down, and he would check it, and we would continue on. Hassan did a great job discerning what I was trying to say, and responding in Somali.
Afterwards, I cleaned up what I could of what I wrote, and then I sent it to my on-line tutor to check. Since my on-line tutor knows grammar really well, I asked him to clarify some of the grammatical constructions. The result will be a great dialogue I can write up, as well as some new vocabulary for Anki.
I don’t know if you know how much languages make me happy. I woke up feeling more rested than usual. I felt giddy. This was already 12 hours after my lesson! This session made my year already.
20 minutes a day
I realized I’ve been yearning for some more structured language time in my day, so I decided to dedicate 20 minutes a day for Somali. The interview of Chris Broholm on the “Language Mastery” podcast inspired me. He reflected on polyglots whom he had interviewed on his own podcast, and mentioned that 1-2 sessions per day of 20 minutes can really improve one’s language. I don’t know if I can do two such sessions per day, but I thought I’d try one per day, first thing in the morning (around 5:00 am).
I’ve found that not only am I more immersed in my language, I’m more happy about it. Every day includes some Somali time where I’m really engaged. I go through my day knowing I did my language work already, before the rest of the day gets ramped up. It’s a wonderful feeling.
I won Somali!
Through this exercise I learned that Somali uses “dummy subjects,” like we have in English in the sentences, “It is raining,” and, “It occurred to me.” The first sentence does not have a logical subject; the rain is just happening. In the second sentence, “I” am the one thinking, even though “I” am the indirect object; the “it” just allows the subject to sit down “inside” the verb phrase.
The moral of this week’s story is that persistence pays. Through persistence I held a basic conversation in Somali. Through persistence I could answer a Somali grammar quiz, aimed at native speakers. Through persistence, I finally dedicated some regular time to studying Somali language.