checking in on group mentorship

I thought this week I would spend a little time reflecting on my experience with group mentorship. My fellow learner, Kevin, and I have now met for a handful of weeks, and I have some more experience to draw on to think about how it's working for me. Here are some of the benefits, as I see them, of our group mentorship.

- Practicing conversational listening - It's been great to have the chance to listen in to Simon and Kevin as they speak to one another. Because they speak more slowly and use mostly words that I know, I find that I am able to follow these conversations in such a way that I am building my listening skills. Rather than getting lost or just catching a word or phrase here and there, I'm able to understand most of what is said. It's really nice! Additionally, the poor acoustic conditions that sometimes occur over Skype, while often frustrating, help me practice listening when the sound conditions are tough.

- Using "Mu" ("You" plural) - It's so silly, but I have found that when I am working on my Luganda from the US, I rarely have the chance to practice using the subject "Mu," the plural form of "you." When I am talking to Simon, it's always just the singular "you," and texting with friends is the same. But in Kampala I need to use "Mu" a lot, and in the past I have found it hard to a) remember to use it; and b) use it correctly. So it's great to have a chance to practice conjugating all sorts of words when directing my language at Simon and Kevin!

- Corrections, corrections, corrections - One of the activities we have continued to do together has been to read newspaper articles aloud and translate them in real time. We usually take it paragraph by paragraph, with each of us claiming one at a time. What has been kind of fun is that when Kevin is reading and translating, I get to sit back and listen, and when he makes a mistake, I can sometimes catch it and correct him. He does the same when it is my turn. It has been great practice to correct one another and to discuss why the corrected version is right. When we don't understand or don't agree, Simon is there to explain, but it feels like we are really working out the language for ourselves, together, in a way that is powerful.

- Pronunciation - It's helpful to hear a non-native Luganda speaker work out the accent. Kevin's accent is definitely better than mine, so I am always listening for how he deals with various sounds, and what he does to decrease the amount of American in his American-Luganda accent.

- Jokes and wordplay - I find that the three of us spend a lot of time joking with one another during our sessions. Not only does this make our lessons more fun (one of my four Fs!), but it also enables us to practice using all sorts of higher-level language skills. If a word for something doesn't exist in Luganda, sometimes we have fun trying to create one that uses Luganda rules but also conveys meaning. For example, over the summer we righted the fact that there was no word for brunch, and came up with ekyenemisana (which is a combination of the words for breakfast and lunch). In any case, we have a lot more fun together than we do studying on our own!

I could go on, but hopefully you get the idea.

There are few downsides that I've experienced so far. I do worry that I may eventually bore Kevin, as he is surrounded by Luganda much of his day and is therefore able to learn at a faster pace than me. I would say the only real other downside is that an hour goes by really quickly, and I think it would be great if we had more time and could work together for at least two hours. But, given all three of our schedules, that's not really feasible.

In terms of the last week of Luganda work, it went pretty well. I again have been working hard to keep my progress going even while traveling. This was especially difficult because of a terrible travel day on Saturday. It's a long sob story (involving missed connections and stolen purses), but suffice it to say I was pretty distracted and didn't do as much as I'd hoped during my travel time. Luckily I was able to make up for it with some down time on Sunday.

Here was the whole week:
Monday: 30 minutes of radio, read 1 Bukedde article, did 150 Quizlet words
Tuesday: 2.5 hours of radio, watched Taata Sam for 20 minutes, 50 quizlet words, and two extensive text conversations
Wednesday: 1 hour session with Simon and Kevin, found 1 new learning resource
Thursday: 1 hour radio, 10 minutes watching Taata Sam, 100 Quizlet words, explained a Luganda concept to a friend
Friday: Lesson work for 1.5 hours, 50 Quizlet words
Saturday: 50 Quizlet words
Sunday: 250 Quizlet words, 10 minutes Facebook translation, Read 1 Bukedde article, 20 minutes watching Taata Sam.

This coming week is going to be a doozy as well, with travel home today and then ASA Thursday through Saturday. I'm just going to do the best I can and not try to put too much pressure on myself since there's a lot going on. Simon is also traveling, so we won't be meeting twice this week, which adds to the challenge of making it a fully productive week. I'll endeavor to do my best, which is all I can really ask.


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