Sunday, April 22, 2012

Looking Back on Learning Swahili

  As we approach the end of our time in Tanzania I look back at almost three years of chipping away at learning Swahili.

  The happy outcome is that despite not having any particular talent for foreign languages and using English when I'm teaching, I've managed to make some good progress. Last week on my way to work a schoolboy said to me in English, "give me money". I responded in Swahili with a brief lecture about how wazungu don't like people who beg for money and told him not to do it. That may not sound like any big deal, but it was a first for me to say something about that.

  At a more complex level, with use of dictionaries and having a basic grasp of the grammar, I've been able to translate letters of instructions from different government offices regarding how to register students for official exams. The vocabulary is pretty sophisticated, and the sentences are often quite long with lots of dependent clauses. Still, because they are in writing and I am able to spend time studying the text, the translating is doable.

  The discouraging news is that my listening comprehension is terrible. I can orally express quite a few things for myself but more often than not the subsequent replies just fly right past me like twittering birds. Obviously, this really limits my ability to sustain a conversation. It's frustrating. But I'm stuck with the brain that I have and with my limitations.

  On the whole I am very pleased with having attained a significant and useful level of ability even if it is far less than those with stronger aptitude (and maybe more conducive circumstances).

  I'd like to mention two books that have been especially helpful which I highly recommend.

  Swahili grammar is very consistent and regular, yet complicated enough that it requires explanation and discussion. Simplied Swahili by Peter Wilson, 1985, fills that need with more than sixty short lessons, each with a number of exercises that are well worth doing.

  The other book is the Swahili-English English-Swahili Dictionary by Nicholas Awde, 2000. It's packed with concise definitions and enables you to translate in both directions. I very often do that in order to confirm what I think is the relevant translation for a word that has more than one distinct meaning. Both Swahili and English have a lot of those.

  Language matters. To learn one, you have to keep practicing it and using it. Progress may feel slow but the persistence pays off. -Earl

Monday, April 9, 2012

Choir Gathering, Easter Monday

We had a special Mass today with members of different choirs in the Mtwara area gathering at our church to sing as one large group. Before the service started I got this photo of some of them right outside our window. During the service I recorded a song that Diane and I particularly like [it's about two and a half minutes, 2.3 MB to download]. -Earl

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter Sunday

Friday, April 6, 2012

Good Friday

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Holy Thursday