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 been spending my week doing some of this extraordinarily basic learning. And so far it's been incredibly helpful! For example, one thing I learned is that every syllable in Luganda ends in a vowel. This helps me understand why Ugandans pronounce some words so differently than I do. Take, for example, Makerere University. I say it like this: mak-er-er-e. But, when a Ugandan says it, it sounds more like: Ma-ke-re-re. It is a subtle difference, and one I'd never been able to account for. But now that I know the pronunciation rule about vowels, it all makes sense!

Another important basic thing that I learned is that Luganda is a tonal language. Amazingly enough, I'd never understood it that way! It really changes the way I think about what I need to pay attention to as I learn.

In addition to this context-gathering work, I have been using Quizlet to just integrate a bit more Luganda language into my daily life. It has been elucidating. As I've been practicing flashcards, it makes apparent how much work there is to do! I get very few words correct. At least my poor performance gives me a benchmark against which I can measure myself in the future. I plan to continue to use Quizlet as a tool for learning new words throughout the semester.

I plan to spend the rest of this week continuing to learn more about the basics of Luganda, because it seems to be working for me. I'll also have a draft of Omuzanyo, the game I'm designing, which will be a fun way for me to track my effort week by week. Next week, I will begin my first lesson from a coursebook, and start working on a list of vocabulary words to learn.


  1. Sounds like a very productive week! Have you added your Quizlet cards to our class's group account? Linked in the course website.


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