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Showing posts from September, 2015

The importance of a musomesa (teacher)

As I embark upon this independent language learning journey, I feel a bit disadvantaged. I haven't ever truly mastered any language I've studied (much to my chagrin), I haven't ever done an intensive course in Luganda, I'm not in Uganda, I am a better visual and written learner than speaking and listening, the list goes on.

However, I do have the major advantage of having someone in my network who has trod this path before me: Lindsay.

While our language learning journeys are undoubtably very different, Lindsay has already been a tremendous help in orienting me to independent Luganda learning. In addition to sharing books with me and pointing me to some helpful online resources, Lindsay is sharing her mentor with me - perhaps the most invaluable language learning gift of all. Though I did ask around to around to other American friends who have learned Luganda, in the end, working with Simon, Lindsay's mentor, seemed to be the best option. For me, the mentor-finding…

Creating Omuzanyo

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This week has been a fun one! I've finished up the major planning of my course of study, and am beginning to put it into action.

One of the experiments I am trying is to use a game to incentivize my study - both the frequency of it, as well as the diversity of methods that I'm using. The game is called Omuzanyo, which just translates to "Game," and its point is to track effort, not proficiency. Proficiency will still be assessed in the manner I described in my independent study plan, and is still important to measure.

For Omuzanyo, I will keep track of my points on a daily basis. I have set a target of 70 points per week (which I am measuring from Monday - Sunday, in the same fashion that the Baganda consider the week). I don't know yet if this number is realistic while still pushing me to put in a lot of effort, or if it sets the bar too low, or if it's just right. I am taking the next two weeks to see how it goes, and will reassess then whether or not it…

The basics

This week I began my study of Luganda - starting with the most basic of basics.

The first time I tried studying Luganda, in 2008, it was by studying a very long list of words, and trying to memorize them. Needless to say, it wasn't the best method for me. Though flashcard-style memorization has worked for me in the past (I loved it during GRE study!), within the context of an entirely new language, it was not the right way for me to learn.

So, I am using the beginning of my language study to institute a new way of learning - one that's better suited to who I am as a learner.

Accordingly, I wanted to spend a lot of time gathering knowledge of the basics of the language. How is it organized? What rules exist for speaking and writing? Is it tonal? What tenses exist? By having a general understanding of these types of questions, I think I'll be much more ready to understand what I'm taking in when it comes to learning individual words, phrases, and pronunciations.

I've …

In the beginning

In the beginning, there were scissors.

That is to say that as I begin this language-learning journey, scissors are sort of my starting point. As of this week, one of the few words I know the Luganda word for is scissors. "Mpako makanse!" My colleagues would often direct me, usually alongside other Luganda requests that I never understood.

Although I spent my first month or two in Uganda taking regular Luganda lessons, it just never stuck. Maybe it was because of my teacher's somewhat rote instruction style, or because of my fear of sticking out even more than I already did (not only a mzungu, but a mzungu that seriously could not speak properly), or because life quickly got busy in Kampala. Whatever the reason, my Luganda remained at the most basic level.

Which brings me to today, a new beginning with the dynamic, multisyllabic, and elusive (to me!) Luganda.

This week has been mostly about planning. I've been thinking about what didn't work during my first attemp…