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Showing posts from October, 2015

Okusoma mpola mpola / To learn slowly

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As with most things in life, it seems that quality trumps quantity in language practice. Most of the reading that I have done about adult language learning emphasizes the benefits of short, deep, daily language study rather than infrequent cramming. I have been trying to integrate this strategy into my weekly language study by working on Luganda daily, with at least some success. (Weekends are still hard!)

The result of this steady, slow work is slow, steady progress. Which is, of course, a good thing. The language gains I make weekly are (I hope!) durable and not just committed to my short-term memory. As I continue on, I notice all the ways in which my Luganda is improving. From this past week:
- I am recognizing many more words while listening to Radio Simba, and sometimes even recognizing different verb tenses
- Using the present tense verb conjugation feels more and more natural to me
- My occasional exchanges with my officemate include a wider range of greetings

Additionally, ye…

on showing up

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When I think about the last couple weeks, this quote from Woody Allen springs immediately to mind. "Eighty percent of success is showing up."

Showing up should be easy - I mean, it's just beginning, being present, giving something a try. Showing up isn't finishing something, being perfect at something,  working yourself into a frenzy over something.

But showing up can be really difficult. Not showing up could mean just not putting in the time. Or not really giving the task at hand your full attention. Or letting negative emotions get in the way of starting in earnest.

These past couple weeks, showing up - as in, making enough time - has been a challenge for me. Amidst lots of competing priorities, I have struggled to make enough space for daily Luganda study. It's a challenge I encounter daily - and usually manage to overcome - but it's a challenge nonetheless.

But when I do begin, it feels good. I am making progress. It's slow and patchy, and filled wit…

Twin learnings: Language and culture

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Diving into the study of Luganda, I have been struck by the many ways in which cultural learning is embedded in language learning, and vice versa. This is a theme that has also come up a lot in our coursework. Since we are always using a language to gain access to a particular culture, of course it makes sense that we'll be learning more about that culture through language learning. And, it makes sense that a better understanding of the culture will help us become better learners of the language.

Examples abound for me with Luganda. During my very first weeks of study, when I was just doing basic greetings, a common interaction to find in written descriptions of greetings was this exchange: "Mmmm."
"Mmmm."
Indeed, during my first session with my language mentor, I was taught when to insert an appropriate "Mmmm." Having lived in Uganda, I picked up an implicit understanding of what "mmmm" means, and how to sprinkle it into speech. However, I …

What's working: Mentorship and Omuzanyo!

After much thinking, some planning, and a little anxiety, I finally had my first conversation with my language mentor last Friday. It was overall a great experience - I think I gained more in that one hour than I have in my weeks of study to date. 
My mentor, who teaches Luganda professionally, was ready to jump right into a traditional teacher/student relationship as soon as we connected on Skype. I asked him if it was alright if I discussed with him this course, my goals, my needs, and my prior experiences with learning Luganda. Of course, he said, and we discussed those things for the first part of our conversation. Though it felt uncomfortable to redirect him, I believe it was important to set the tone as being a little different than a traditional class setting, and to flag right away that I might be a bit of a different student. Indeed, throughout the rest of the conversation, we both referred back to the original discussion when necessary. It was just one small step, but I am h…