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 experience was dependent on having a strong network of people that know Uganda and Ugandans, and I think that networking worked for me.

For me, working with a language mentor is really a must. To achieve what I want to achieve, I need to be able to practice speaking and listening. And I need someone to listen to me, to correct me, and to push me a bit. Even though I feel I have already learned a lot through reading/writing/speaking aloud to an empty room, it all still feels a little theoretical. For example, thanks to the wonders of drilling on Quizlet, I can consistently accurately spell tunaanalabagana (see you later), but I am not even close to being able to say it. Clearly, I need help from a native speaker!

Simon and I will have our first session this coming Friday. But from all of the reading and thinking I've done, I know that there is some work and planning to be done before we even meet the first time.

First and foremost, I want to be really thoughtful about how I describe what I want to get out of the experience and how I'd like us to work together. Again, I benefit from the fact that Simon has already worked with Lindsay, and so some of these non-traditional ways of teaching will likely be familiar to him. Even so, I am a different learner, and have different goals, and I want to be sure I am open with Simon about these things from the beginning. I do wonder about how much coaching-the-mentor I'll feasibly be able to do, not only because Simon already teaches Luganda and so already has a set of tools for doing so, but because it just seems tricky in any circumstance. The readings I have done about working with a language mentor suggest a variety of ways to guide the relationship in order to facilitate learning, but I have a feeling some of the negotiation will be much more difficult in real life. Real-life examples to come on these very pages, I'm sure!

Secondly, I want to come prepared with a series of phrases or sentences that I want to hear Simon say aloud and that I want him to help me practice with my pronunciation. You can bet that tunaanalabagana is at the top of the list!

Overall, I'm excited (and a little nervous) to begin actually speaking to someone in Luganda, and I'm curious to see how our weekly sessions will change my early plans for learning the language.

One final postscript about my week: Omuzanyo was fun to do in week 1! I did not achieve my goal of 70 points, but I found that the desire to get there definitely was a motivator. I have some thoughts about how the point values might need to change based on the value I've been getting from different exercises, but I'm not going to tweak anything until after my second trial week. You can expect a full update on this next week!


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