Showing posts from 2017

some statistics

As this semester draws to a close, I'm feeling reflective about the term and my language learning in general. One of the things that stands out to me is not just the actual language skills acquired, but the degree to which I've improved as an independent language learner. Having kept track of my Omuzannyo points since the beginning, I'm able to see this unfold in numbers. So, for fun, here are some stats that reflect how I've grown as a learner: Year Mean points Min Max 2015-2016 45 20 74 2016-2017 62 25 85 2017 77 62 86 As you can see, my mean has consistently increased over the past three years. What makes me even happier to see, though, is that my minimum point score has significantly  increased this year. Whereas in the past, a bad week put me in the 20s, I've built up enough habits that my minimum this semester is more than twice that. (Granted, I

listening practice

This was a solid, if unextraordinary week for my Luganda studies. I was able to reach my goal of 80 points, due to putting in a good chunk of time every day this week, and then spending a long  time working on some lesson work today. One of the things I am most excited about this week is a new idea and use of technology that Simon spontaneously came up with. Usually, Simon will send me readings, grammar activities, or writing prompts via email or Whatsapp. On Monday, I received a set of Whatsapp voice messages from him instead. On the first message, he recorded himself reading a short story. On the second, he asked me a set of comprehension and interpretive questions about the story. Both recordings force me to practice my listening skills, and I'm excited because this is exactly the kind of new tool that I need. As you all know, I've been doing a lot of listening to talk radio, videos, etc. And certainly, that listening practice helps. However, this new method seems likely


I spent most of my Thanksgiving break either hosting family for the big feast or taking a bit of a step back and recharging my batteries for the final couple weeks of class. I really  value down-time and see it as critical for sanity and success. Since this semester's been so busy, especially over weekends, I really have had very little time to disconnect. I used this break as my opportunity to do just that! My one goal for the week was to be sure to touch some of my Luganda work every day. I let myself off the hook for earning 80 Omuzannyo points, but I didn't want to take a day without engaging with Luganda in some way. My success this week, then, was threefold: 1) I successfully took a step back from things and rested; 2) I successfully studied a bit of Luganda every day; 3) These successes lead me to feel energized and excited to be back at work this week. Most important to me is that third piece, especially since the burnout was pretty imminent last week. Now I feel

the usefulness of Luganda

Though this week was not my best week for studying, it was one in which Luganda came in handy multiple times, in multiple circumstances. It was a great reminder of the reason why I am studying Luganda and the sometimes surprising degree to which it is useful to me, even here in Madison. First, our Africa at Noon speaker, Dr. Aaron Mushengyezi, focused his presentation on the various meanings of songs in Uganda. He works in several different languages, but his presentation contained mostly Luganda songs. It was so much fun to be able to read the Luganda lyrics and get meaning (without relying on the translation); I felt like I had a real advantage as an audience member because I could understand so much -- including words with multiple meanings! Not only did my Luganda skills come in handy during the presentation, they also offered me a nice connection to the speaker. He even referred to me in his presentation, as the Muganda in the room who could understand the songs! Second, I spe

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)

the tradeoffs of winning Omuzannyo

I reached my Omuzannyo goal again this past week, with 81 points total! As exciting as this is, I realized this past week that my ability to reach my goal as many weeks as I have is not because I'm super on top of my stuff (though it was nice living under that illusion for a while!). Rather it is that I am choosing Luganda over  my other work. In other words, I think I've set up a learning environment for myself in which I'm highly motivated to put in time. Which is a good thing! But it's also more motivating for me than my other work, which means, when given the choice, I've been doing Luganda instead of other stuff. This is partly due to the nature of the other courses I'm taking, which is a whole other story. They happen to be the kind of classes where my 100% is not strictly necessary every week. It's also due to the fact that I've increased by point goal in Omuzannyo this year. I made that change in order to push myself even harder in my Lu

practicing pronunciation

I distinctly remember the feeling of horror that rushed through me when a classmate last year told the class that she recorded her language lessons so that she could go back and listen to what she had done. I did not  have the guts to put myself through that. It's bad enough hearing my own voice in English, I thought. No way could I suffer through listening to myself in Luganda. I am here to tell you that I was (sort of) wrong. Well, I was wrong in that it turns out I am  capable of doing such an activity. I'm not wrong to say it can be a bit painful, though! When I recorded a snippet of my conversation with Simon a couple weeks ago and was horrified about how it sounded, I resolved to dedicate some extra effort to pronunciation. Given my slightly more relaxed week/weekend (compared to the last three), I thought it would be the best time for me to try out some new activities and think more deeply about my pronunciation. First, I happened to find a book in the library ti

pride goeth...

I had a sense that my feelings of excitement and accomplishment from last week might haunt me this week. After writing last week's post while airborne, things quickly started going downhill. We didn't end up getting home til 2:00 AM and so I realized pretty quickly that my 8:00 AM lesson was probably not going to happen. I texted Simon and we cancelled for Monday and planned to just meet on Wednesday instead. I tried to make up for the lack of a lesson as best I could throughout the week, and certainly made my best attempt. But between missing out on a lesson and my weekend spent hosting people, it was not my best week. BUT - not my worst either! I still managed to get a decent amount done, when I look over my week's activities. Not enough to meet my Omuzannyo goal, though. I did manage to do some Luganda every day, even while hosting guests. I have learned the art of doing Quizlet Long-Term Learning in the morning before I'm out of my bedroom. It's a great

on the move & still studying

As I write this, I’m 30-some-thousand feet above Utah (it’s beautiful from up here), a bit tired but happy after a weekend in San Francisco. I am happy not just because I had a great time exploring SF and celebrating a joyous wedding, but also because I’m coming back to Madison without stress. After all this time it seems I’ve finally started to learn how to better get things done while on the road. One of the keys to my success this weekend is a central tenet of language learning in general: the importance of preparation. In the past, I’d often assume I would get work done on the plane but would forget that I wouldn’t have access to the internet while on the flight. Since many of my materials are online, I’d find myself with not much to do. I’ve learned now to bring a book or to download work to do from Simon in advance so that I can make better use of my time. I am also less reliant on dictionaries now, and can get a good amount done without having to rely on a dictionary which