tip #1: re-read your camera's manual

I am a photographer. My uncle, a photographer himself, started teaching me how to use a camera and a dark room when I was ten. I've been hooked ever since. My uncle remains my main teacher and troubleshooter for photography, and he still gives me a lot of advice. He has one piece of advice that is absolutely at the top of his list for me, and it is this: Read your camera's manual. Re-read it at least once a year.

You see, as you gain experience as a photographer in general, and with your camera specifically, you become increasingly proficient in certain technical procedures and you start to fall into some habits with how you shoot. By re-reading your camera's manual, you are able to learn about features that you previously didn't have the skills to use, and you are able to re-imagine some of your tried and true techniques, hopefully pushing your skills along. It is an activity of both discovery (of something that's always been there), and a chance to reassess how you're currently operating.

a very old self portrait

I realized this past week that this advice is relevant to language learners as well. For no apparent reason, a couple of times this past week I found myself drawn to some of the Luganda texts that I'd used in the past, earlier in my language-learning career. Similar to reviewing my camera's manual, I found the exercise to be helpful on a couple of fronts. First, since I have the basics of the language down so much better now, I can be more attentive to some of the more nuanced grammatical points made in the texts. Initially I was so wrapped up with just making sense of noun classes, for example, that I missed rules about when to include the initial vowel on a noun. Second, re-reading some of the texts helped me to reflect on habits I've fallen into as a language producer. The FSI text reminded me of the fact that Luganda is a tonal language, something which I haven't been paying very close attention to in my studies to date. It opened up questions for me about how to study this element of the language moving forward.

Much like photography, I think that language learning can benefit from regularly revisiting the foundational texts - even if you think you've progressed past them. It's amazing what's still there to be learned.

Re-reading the Peace Corps Guide and the FSI pre-training guide were not my only activities this past week, of course. I had a successful week overall. Here is what I did:

Tuesday: 1 hour with language mentor, 30 minutes of lesson work
Wednesday: Quizlet long-term learning (100 words), 90 minutes listening to the radio, and 30 minutes re-reading the Peace Corps manual
Thursday: Quizlet long-term learning, 2 hours listening to the radio, 1 hour re-reading the FSI guide, and watched 1 Bukedde TV video
Friday: Quizlet long-term learning (150 words)
Saturday: Watched a 15 minute news program video, Quizlet
Sunday: Quizlet long-term learning, created a Luganda crossword puzzle for vocabulary practice
Monday: Quizlet long-term learning (100 words), read 2 Bukedde articles

I am planning to continue on the trajectory of re-reading some of my texts this week. I especially would like to go back to some of the old textbooks that have been gathering dust on my shelf. They have always felt intimidating, but I have a feeling I am in a much better position to take them on now. Simon has also given me a lot of homework to do, which will be my main task for tomorrow's study. Finally, I bumped into my Ugandan friend on campus last week, and we chatted for a couple minutes in Luganda. We discussed getting back together, so making plans with her is another priority of mine for the week ahead.


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