Week 21 of Loving Somali: Urban Adventure

A helmet won't help on an urban adventure!
A helmet won’t help on an urban adventure!

Most people don’t think of Minneapolis as a place for urban adventure or international encounters, but this weekend I found both here.

I pulled up to the Somali Mall on Saturday morning, assuming I would find a place for sambusas, sweet chai, and Somali conversation. Shivering as I paid for street parking, I saw a head peek out of the door of “Safari Coffee.”

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Week 20 of Loving Somali: Connect with language, connect with people

Languages connect me to others
Languages connect me to others

Last week I had a terrible yet fascinating experience with Somali language and culture. A young son of Somali parents tragically died near us. In community solidarity, my family went to the local mosque for the funeral. At the funeral were hundreds of Somalis, plus a handful of non-Muslim community members.

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Week 19 of Loving Somali: Barasho wanaagsan! Nice to meet you!

I have always found it nice to meet Somalis.
I have always found it nice to meet Somalis.

This weekend I took a trip to a conference Arizona, and even though I wasn’t planning on practicing my Somali much, I ended up doing more than usual. I look forward these days to spending time in airports, looking for East African adventures.

Continue reading “Week 19 of Loving Somali: Barasho wanaagsan! Nice to meet you!”

Week 18 of Loving Somali: The challenge and benefits of writing

How does writing your language inspire and enlighten you?
How does writing your language inspire and enlighten you?

I listened this week to an episode of the “Language as Culture” podcast by David Mansaray. It was called “How to Make the Most of a Language Tutor,” and featured the young German polyglot, Judith Meyer. Ms. Meyer offered several great tips for work that can be done on one’s own preparing for your next lesson.

Following one piece of advice from her, I decided to write a short piece in Somali, describing a friend of mine. Ms. Meyer recommended that one pick a topic that will be relevant, so that the vocabulary and syntax will be useful in more conversations.

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Week 16 of Loving Somali: Why study Cushitic languages?

Map of Cushitic and Afro-Asiatic languages
Map of Cushitic and Afro-Asiatic languages

Languages opened my mind to new ways of thinking. This statement is so cliched, so let me try to fill it with some meaning.

When I study a language, I have to grasp new ways of expressing oneself. I don’t mean expressing one’s innermost thoughts; I mean trying to parse out mundane things like, “I’m hungry,” or “Please stop that!” To learn that, I inevitably have to talk to people who spend at least part of their lives outside of the monolingual English community I’ve spent most of my life in. That means that they approach the world differently than the people of my community. Again, this is not necessarily a profound difference; I’m talking about a community who sees a huge difference between, say, Ethiopia and Somalia. Basing my thinking on a new set of relevant facts changes my day-to-day concerns.

This week. I wanted to express some of the basic facts about a linguistic realm that few people—even professional linguists—know anything about. I will describe the Cushitic language family, concluding with why someone should care about Cushitic languages.
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