making it real

My first two weeks of Luganda classes are almost coming to a close - and here I'd been planning to blog once a week. Oops. Time flies!

I am really enjoying my time as a student in a "formal" classroom setting - informal as it really is - and have been getting much more joy than I could've imagined out of four hours of study a day.

It helps that my teacher, Amelia, is wonderful. She is warm and easy-going and clearly very committed to her craft. Our four hours together a day fly by, because it mostly feels like I am spending time with a friend and learning a lot on the way.

For the first couple of days together, Amelia was trying to get a sense of what language skills I had already acquired. She started speaking to me only in Luganda immediately, speaking more slowly or repeating when necessary. And we flew through a series of introduction-like sections.

"Do you know greetings?" She'd ask, in Luganda. I would respond that I did, and then she would say, "Okay, tell me what you know." "Do you know singular and plural?" "Do you know conjugation?" "Do you know past tenses?" "Do you know noun classes?" We spent time reviewing each section, with her adding new phrases, vocabulary, and cultural meaning into each lesson, broadening the knowledge I already had.

It felt amazing to be able to respond to her affirmatively on so many different topics, and to back that up with actual things I have learned - on my own, in Madison, Wisconsin. A real testament to the language course, and to a year's worth of hard work.

Oftentimes in the process of answering a question about something, we'll veer off topic a bit and start having a conversation about something else. Sometimes it's something truly tangental, and it gives me a chance to just chat freely about a new topic, learning new vocabulary along the way. For example, while discussing transport yesterday, we got into a long conversation about the Amish and I found myself trying to explain who they are, in Luganda, to Amelia. A fun challenge!

Many other times, the tangent is related to something cultural about Uganda or the Baganda people. I obviously really enjoy these tangents too, as I am learning about both language and culture. For example, I learned about how the Baganda use bananas during burial practices, and that apparently it is extraordinarily common for Baganda to keep mushrooms around the house, as they are used to get rid of "night dancers." (Lindsay, if you have any more context here, I'd love to know it. My understanding from the conversation was that these are evil spirits that come at night, but that was as much as I got.)

All in all, the four hours a day have been amazing, and I really feel with all the listening and speaking practice that I am on the road to making my dream of speaking Luganda real.


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