past, present, future

Well. I'd planned to write one big final reflection of my time in Uganda about language learning, culture, and an overall assessment of my summer.


Things got busy. The goodbyes during my last week were non-stop. Old Ugandan friends, new Ugandan friends, new ex-pat friends. Lunches and dinners and last-minute jaunts across town to visit families. And before I knew it, I was on a plane out of town, at sunset, crying because it was over.

I still planned to write, and I was still so busy. So it never happened.

The CliffsNote version is this: I learned so much. It was an invaluable time. The language learning, first and foremost, was amazing. Though four hours a day of one-on-one instruction was draining, it obviously did wonders for my speaking abilities and listening comprehension.

My wonderful basomesa (teachers) from Uganda Crafts
But the incredible view into Ugandan/Buganda culture was another major takeaway from the summer. Every single language lesson was imbued with cultural learnings. From what women at different ages are expected to wear, to beliefs and practices of traditional healers, to the specificity of the meanings and uses of different foods, to how different emotions are valued within Buganda culture; every day I gained new insight to Ugandan culture. It was amazing to realize what cultural meanings had been lurking under the surface of various conversations I'd had, and made me attuned to how much of which I am still not aware. Certainly, I am learning how to pay attention to these types of cues as I continue to learn.

A "Dear Abby" type exercise, where I responded to this "letter" with my advice.
Great Luganda practice and great cultural learning!

After returning from Uganda, I kept up, to some extent, with my Quizlet long-term learning practice, as well as regularly Whastapping, emailing, or Facebooking in Luganda with friends. I decided that I wanted a little bit of a break from more formal study, and so I was content to leave it at that for a month and a half before starting class again.

The central focus of this week was to solidify my Individual Study Plan and to think seriously about my goals, progress to date, and methods. I actually spent a lot of time on the ISP, reworking my document from last year and attempting to craft an approach that fits the stage of language learning I'm in alongside what's worked already. Though my final product probably resembles quite closely my previous ISPs, somehow it feels different to me, better attuned to my learning style or perhaps simply more confident.

I also began diving back into Luganda language learning. I spent quite a bit of time reviewing vocabulary to try and gain back some of the words that have slid from my mind in the last couple weeks.

Additionally, I spent a good amount of time with the radio on while I worked. Listening to Radio Simba brought me a lot of joy after some time away from it, and I am actually understanding large sections of it now - or at least getting the topic of conversation.

I'm in the process of finding a time to meet with my language mentor. I'd ideally have two meetings a week this year, because I have the time in my schedule for it and because I'd like to keep my progress moving forward steadily. And, also, because I have so much less fear than I did last year to have conversations in Luganda! But finding a time that works for us both may be a challenge - there's already been some back and forth. We'll see if we can make it work for both sessions. If we can't, then I might need to find a second person to give me the additional hour of conversation time I'm hoping for. More on that as it happens.


As I look ahead to this semester, I am excited to return to putting serious time into my Luganda. Compared to this time last year, I feel ten times more confident and less afraid of failure. I feel that I can use this time outside of Uganda as a real opportunity for building my base, so that when I return I will have a broader set of grammatical skills and vocabulary upon which to draw. In addition to all the excitement, I am curious to see where the stumbling blocks will be this year, as I attempt to learn at intermediate/advanced level at a distance.


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