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Showing posts from February, 2016

the library books

When we visited the library last term, I picked up a stack of Luganda grammar books. The next day, I lugged them all to Colectivo and opened one after the other. And... they were completely useless to me. I felt lost on the first page of each of them. While they laid grammar rules out relatively simply, the books were definitely not written for a brand new beginner without a linguistic background.

The books ended up back on my shelf at home, rarely to be looked at. I returned them at the end of the semester with the knowledge they'd be there when I needed them.

This week, I decided it was time. I returned to Memorial Library, searched through the stacks, and walked away with even more Luganda books than I'd picked up in September.

Snuggled up on my couch, I cracked open the first book anxiously, hoping that this time, the grammar writing would make some sense to me. Miraculously, it did! I flipped through a couple chapters, reviewing concepts and deepening my knowledge. Compar…

Yo Quielo Taco Bell!

Luganda is the third language that I have studied in any formal sort of way. As a middle and high school student, I studied French and loved its graceful sounds. After spending some time in Guatemala, I switched to studying Spanish and managed to love it even more than I'd loved French. Not only did I enjoy the language itself, but I actually had friends with whom I could now communicate back in Guatemala. Spanish expanded my world in a tangible way, and it was so gratifying.

As my geographic interests shifted (and I ran out of spare college credits to invest in language learning), I stopped studying Spanish. My life moved along, and my interest in east Africa grew, and suddenly Spanish seemed very disconnected from my life's direction.

When I started learning Luganda, I was worried that my track record of not mastering French or Spanish would somehow affect my Luganda learning negatively. Especially when I (foolishly!) compared myself to my classmates, the majority of whom ha…

What do Luganda and Stats have in common?

While sitting in my statistics class this week, trying really hard to focus in on the minutiae of data files, it occurred to me: Luganda is not the only language I am learning right now.

I'm as surprised as you are, because this is not at all what I thought I was signing up for as a first year PhD student. I'd envisioned sifting through stacks and stacks of readings and having intense debates with my fellow students about the readings. (I'm sure that's coming in year two, not to worry!) But instead, this year, I spend most of my time thinking about language learning.

So, what's the other language? Stata, a statistics programming language. (PROGRAMMING LANGUAGE? My heart stops a little typing that out. File in: skills I never thought I'd have.) I knew when I signed up for stats that I would be using software to help me crunch numbers, but I didn't realize that I would in fact be learning to program in order to crunch numbers.

What do learning Luganda and lea…

The Power of Planning (or: Lessons Learned)

During class last week, we discussed strategies for fitting independent language study into a very-busy schedule that often changes week by week.

We discussed a practice that Professor Thompson uses herself, which is to take time every Sunday to schedule time into your calendar for study. That way, your studies are planned for and fits within whatever your schedule for that particular week looks like. Then, when you get the calendar notification, you know it's time to jump into action and do your work.

"This is a great idea," I thought to myself. "Next Sunday, I'll make a plan!"

Q: What potentially devastating mistake did I make just there?

A: Not making a plan for the remainder of my week that very night!

As it happens, this past week was very out of the ordinary. Wednesday afternoon, I flew out of Madison to Washington, DC, where I attended a workshop for the African Studies Program during the week, and caught up with friends over the weekend.

As I packed…