Okusiima (or: to appreciate)

Maybe it's a bit cliche, but I take the traditions of Thanksgiving very seriously. Of course, the food is important, the football's fine, and spending time with loved ones is critical. But the one Thanksgiving activity that matters more than anything to me is to spend time reflecting on the things I'm grateful for.

When I lived in Ireland, my American classmates and I put together a Thanksgiving dinner for our Irish friends. It was a fun cultural sharing experience; we got to introduce them to the meaning behind the holiday, which they really had no knowledge of, as well as to quirky American foods, like puppy chow. But, when the time came to go around the table and say something they were thankful for, everyone turned their eyes downward and started shifting in their seats. This level of public earnestness made my classmates a little uncomfortable. You're really going to make us do this?

As it turns out, "acting grateful can actually make you grateful." And so we forced public gratefulness out of our Irish friends. I think, in the end, they enjoyed the experience, as much as it pushed them outside of their comfort zones.

It's in the spirit of publicly naming things we're thankful for that I wanted to share some language-learning gratitude today. Cheesy? Probably. Honest? Definitely.

Things I'm grateful for

  • The fact that this class exists! How lucky I am to be at a university that has such a strong African languages program generally, and that gives me the structure to learn this less commonly taught language I want. And, obviously, for Katrina's vision for the class, and her steady guidance of our language learning journeys.
  • My Ugandan friends that have been patient with my half-assed language learning attempts of the past. I can't wait to visit them and show off how far I've come!
  • My language mentor, and his unending patience with me at this stage of my learning. 
  • Quizlet, which enables me to spend large chunks of time tracking and testing my knowledge at my desk, and little chunks of time practicing my vocabulary when I'm on the move.
  • Those that have created what few Luganda language resources exist. Most recently, it's the people behind Learn Luganda, whose grammar guide is the clearest I've seen so far. But I'm truly grateful for people that have taken the time to share knowledge of Luganda for learners. 
  • My fellow classmates, who provide support and are always there to help solve problems as they come up.
  • My Fairy Godmother Lindsay, all of her advice on matters pertaining to learning Luganda, and the inspiration she provides as someone who has reached an advanced level!
  • The loquacious djs at Radio Simba, and the hours of listening practice they've provided me to date.
  • The delight of making sense of a phrase that once eluded me.
  • The delight of coming up with the right word, even when you thought you were just stringing letters together. (Does this happen to anyone else? I'm finding it happens to me more and more!)
  • Failure, because it provides an opportunity for deeper learning.
  • Getting to watch videos like this in the name of learning. 
  • The privilege of being invited into another culture via its language.
Obviously, this isn't a totally complete list, but I think it captures the highlights.

Apart from feeling all this gratitude, this has been a fine week for my language learning. I've been dipping my toes into understanding the noun classes, and my time reviewing them with my language mentor last week really helped the topic seem more approachable. I've been working on lessons from the workbook I have, and find that that focused time writing is really key to my progress every week. Finally, yesterday I gave myself the same evaluative challenge I did in October, and I quizzed myself using the Basic Luganda Quizlet flashcard set that someone else has created. This time, I went through about 340 words, and I correctly answered about 48% of the time. This is only a minor increase from last month, but it's an increase nonetheless. I'm getting closer and closer to being able to understanding the majority of that set, despite the fact that I'm not studying it. And that feels great!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!


  1. I love your theme for the week and what a beautiful blog!
    It's true that we have to publicly say sometimes what we are grateful for. I will ditto your gratefulness on the class. As I have said in class, there are too much use of internet for one, for my taste. However, the biggest thing for me, especially as a reflective observer, has been reflecting about my learning on the blog. It's the one thing I always looked forward to before class.

    Happy thanksgiving to you


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