Practical tips for learning Somali in Minnesota, Part 1

This is what studying Somali looks like for me.
This is what studying Somali looks like for me.

Languages don’t require a book to learn. They only require a community. Books help when you don’t have people around, but when you meet people who speak your language, make the most of the encounter. Introduce yourself, tell them how much you love their language, and see if they can help you advance.

Let me explain how I learn Somali in Minnesota. Realize that I don’t live close to a Somali community, that is, I don’t run into Somalis on a daily basis. I have to drive intentionally to where I know Somalis frequent.

Memorization lies at the foundation of my Somali work. I read some books and articles just to glean vocabulary—individual words and phrases. I put them into my Anki deck, and I go through my deck every day at about 5am. I do it at that time because the day gets too busy otherwise and I forget.

When I get into Minneapolis, where the largest concentration of Somalis live, I take advantage of my visit.
Read about a recent “lesson”

Week 11 of loving Somali: Living the Polyglot Dream

Living the dream is time for celebration!
Living the dream is time for celebration!

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.

Continue reading “Week 11 of loving Somali: Living the Polyglot Dream”

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. Continue reading “Week 8 of Loving Somali: Not enough books”

Week 4 of loving Somali: Joy, pumpkins, and goat meat

Do you look like a pumpkin? Is that a good thing?
Do you look like a pumpkin? Is that a good thing?

Studying Somali brings me joy. I love discovering this language. Granted, I’m like Christopher Columbus, “discovering” people who didn’t know they needed discovering; I’m not exactly a pioneer. Nevertheless, my “discoveries” bring my mind to a world that at least I didn’t know, coming in contact with people so much like me, yet from a life that is so different. The newness of contact envigorates me.

This week I didn’t study as much as I planned, but I still had the opportunity to see a new landscape. I learned about a market filled with mango, goat meat, and pumpkins. I also got to see new ways of ordering language, of expressing oneself. Maybe my dear readers would like to help me with some of the sticking points I came across this week? This never gets old for me!
Continue reading “Week 4 of loving Somali: Joy, pumpkins, and goat meat”

Week 2 of loving Somali: Time and greetings

How do you greet people in Somali? At what time?
How do you greet people in Somali? At what time?

This week I noticed some cool facts about time in Somali, namely, how they tell time, name the days, and greet each other. I also found some parallels with other languages I know. I think the latter might help some of my readers. Since I’ve studied a lot of languages, I’m able to see some interesting parallels that may help others to skip some steps in trying to learn these facets of Somali. I find it fascinating when I find some peculiar construction in a language, and then stumble upon it unexpectedly in a totally unrelated language. “This looks familiar!” always gets me excited.
Continue reading “Week 2 of loving Somali: Time and greetings”

Week 1 of loving Somali: Exotic discoveries

Has your language produced exotic fruit?
Has your language produced exotic fruit?

So far I’ve kept to my goal of studying two chapters per week of La soco af soomaaliga and memorizing vocabulary daily with Anki. The book is not organized in a really clear way, and it doesn’t translate all the vocabulary. Fortunately, Google Translate manages Somali (barely) and I found an awesome Somali dictionary app.

Continue reading “Week 1 of loving Somali: Exotic discoveries”