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Posts in “English”

Bamum or Bafanji?

Okay, it's a fact that Bamum is super cool, has a cool writing system and nice songs by Claude Ndam, but there are no dictionaries available and the Bible translation isn't available online either. However, there's a very small lexicon included on "Parlons Bamoun", a grammar and a nice phrasebook with audio.

On the other hand, for the related Bafanji, despite having 0 resources, I was able to find a potential tutor on Preply, an under development dictionary and the Gospel of Luke online. Of course, Bafanji has never been a written language, so it doesn't have a cool writing system as Bamum does.

I'm way better served with Bamum, but I might have trouble to continue learning it in the future and be forever dependent on a teacher. For Bafanji, I'd depend more on the teacher at the beginning, but having a dictionary, I can still decipher texts on my own and look up the vocabulary I don't know to make new sentences, but of course, I might never get to this point. Which one to choose?

Not dropping Kusaal anymore?

Two days ago I said I was going to switch from Kusaal to Mampruni, but guess what, I've found an improved edition of the Agole dictionary at the author's website and the revised edition of the Agole Bible in a website from Burkina Faso. Now that's a bit of a game changer. There are indeed no children's books as the ones available in both Mampruni and Dagbani, but since they're pretty short, I can always get my tutor to translate the same texts. I'm gonna play with the dictionary a little bit (more precisely, try to look up the words I already know and get them written in the revised orthography) before making a final decision.

Bamum

After a while taking a break from Cameroonian tutors on Preply, I -apparently- found someone who seem to be proficient in a local language. He speaks Bamum (or "Bamoun" in French), which is also a Eastern Grassfield language just like the ones in the Bamileke group I was interested in before. The coolest thing is that the language had a very interesting writing system which is unfortunately no longer in use, but there are some people trying to revive. I need to dust off my French, since that's the language we're using in our lessons...

Mampruli

So yeah, I'm really dropping Agole Kusaal. The main reason is the lack of resources. The only reading resource I have is the Bible, and though there's an updated version with the latest orthography, only the old one is available online. There's an Agole dictionary in production, but it's still in the draft stage and it should take some years for it to become usable (at least for me to try to decipher texts using it). There's a very basic textbook, but it's a little bit dated and only covers the initial contacts with the language helper. This makes me completely dependent on a teacher to learn the language. To add insult to injury, I've been quite annoyed with the fact that my tutor is always late for every single lesson of ours, from the very first one. His fee is very low, so I'm not in a position to complain, but considering all factors involved, I guess Kusaal wasn't the best choice.

So what are my possible choices? I've been checking what Atlantic-Congo languages have resources such as 1) textbooks or audio lessons, 2) dictionaries, 3) grammars and 4) reading materials available. The obvious choices that meet all these criteria would be Yoruba, Igbo, Ewe, Asante Twi, Fula and Wolof, but all these languages are spoken by many millions, so I'd try others first. Possible related languages could be a) Mooré, but there are no written resources for it other than the Bible; b) Dagbani, but for (1) there are only very basic lessons and the most complete textbook I could find is no longer available from ERIC; and c) Mampruli, but there are only one sketch grammar no longer available online (3) and there are only a few audio lessons (1). So by now I'm planning to switch from Kusaal to Mampruli, but if it doesn't work, then I'll probably switch to Dagbani instead.

Professional overthinker

Everything went just fine at work. Not as good as it could have been, but oh well, bear with my lack of experience :)

Should I just drop Kusaal?

I've been a little upset with my Kusaal tutor, but also with the lack of good resources. I'm quite tempted to quit it, but I need first to do some research to see if I can find other better-served related languages I could transfer what I've learned so far to.

Free children's books in lesser taught languages

I decided to try reading some easy books in Sepedi. I've known some of these websites for quite a few years, but since I keep forgetting some of them, I'll leave the links here for my own reference, just in case:

And also some for specific languages:

South African languages resource

I'm glad to find this wonderful resouce for South African languages such as Setswana, Sesotho, Sepedi, Zulu, Xhosa in both English and Afrikaans. They're very basic and aimed at children, but what I like the most is that the contents are the same in all languages, so it's easy to compare them and build on your previous knowledge in the other languages.

Ga gona bothata

Just found out that "Hakuna matata" in Sepedi is "Ga gona bothata"! Isn't that awesome? It made my day, really.

The real winter has come

A little late, but I guess snow came to stay this year. Bye bye, bike. See you next year, I guess?

Chaotic randomness

Okay, I'm totally enjoying my Dholuo classes (although I've only taken two 30min sessions so far), but guess what, for a second I wasn't sure anymore about where the language is spoken! This is just how random and crazy my choices are right now. Or perhaps it shows that my interest is rather linguistic than cultural in this case.

Busy

Okay, I see the pattern now. Seems like whenever I'm too busy to write here, I end up writing in English. I guess I should try to use Portuguese, Spanish, Catalan and Esperanto here more often, right?

Skeem Saam

After so long trying to learn obscure languages, it's actually nice to be learning a language for which there are at least some nice media. As a lesser-taught language there's indeed a lack of decent learning resources, but their domestic media is pretty developed and there are school textbooks and readers up to at least Grade 6. Really nice stuff.

Punctuality (or lack of)

Okay, it's true that I hate waiting for others. I can't help to feel a little anxious whenever people don't show up on time. Not sure if it's an autistic trait, but oh boy, there's this tutor who is always late and always ends our classes 2 or 3 minutes earlier. His rate is low, so I'm not in position to complain, but hey, I've been working for peanuts as well, so we're both in the same boat.

Sepedi noun classes

Me and my tutor have started exploring the noun classes in Sepedi. The bad thing is that they're way less regular than in Swahili. My tutor is taking holidays, but I've found another great one to replace him. She's super fast, sometimes way too fast, so I'm going to use the holidays to speed up my learning and rush through as many patterns from my Setswana textbook as we can...

Uzbek resources

Although I'm not actively learning Uzbek, I did peek "Uzbek for Beginners" and took some notes. It's not a bad textbook, but there are quite a few ugly typos and mistakes. I also borrowed a few books from the library, namely "Uzbek textbook", "簡明ウズベク語文法" and "大学のウズベク語". Despite the lack of decent resources online, I think I'm well-equipped now.

I'd love to know more about Kipchak dialect, but I couldn't find any videos, recordings or any actual information in English about it and Uzbek people haven't been very helpful. I did find a book called "Ўзбек тили Сурхондарё шевалари", but it's all in Uzbek, so for now I'm still in the dark. For now, I'm not even sure if the dialect has vowel harmony or not.

Dholuo

Just had my first Dholuo lesson. The language seems very interesting and my tutor was also great. It's too early to tell, but I'm under the impression that I'm going to like Dholuo more than Kusaal and Sepedi...

Back to Hokkien?

Exactly 11 years ago, around this time of the year, I set the goal of learning Hokkien. Using the cash gift my parents gave me, I bought a few Taiwanese Hokkien textbooks. A lot of money spent, especially because of the shipping fees, but I think it took me perhaps another whole year for me to actually start learning it.

I met many nice and helpful Taiwanese speakers both in my hometown (São Paulo) and where I was living in back then (São Carlos) and would meet them often to practice. People in the (now dead) Hokkien forum also helped me a whole lot. At the same time, I started taking classes with a teacher from Cebu as well. However, after 2 years my enthusiasm faded completely. So where was I wrong?

  1. Ignoring the tones altogether: People could usually understand me from the context, but my pronunciation used to be way off. I would eventually get some frequent lexical items right, but just because they appeared so often.
  2. Being way more interested in doing dialectology than in actually speaking the language: My textbooks and speakers were all from different places, so it's just natural that there would be a lot of variation, which I personally found fascinating!
  3. Focusing too much on how to write the language: I mean, who cares if a character is a 本字 or not?

Since I'm apparently starting to nail how to pronounce the tones in Mandarin (at least in isolation), I thought it's high time for me to challenge Hokkien again. It's sad though that it took me 10 years to get back to Hokkien again and try to do things the right way this time around. I won't try too hard, but rather in a very approximative way. I mean, I totally can't tell tones 3 and 7 apart and might pronounce the first one a little higher, at least for Tâi-lâm standards. Also, given the fact I never memorized the sandhi rules, I already have a lot of work.

Definitely not my priority language (I guess at the moment all my languages are side languages, to be honest!), but except for the tones I'm definitely not starting from scratch. But since I actually have always wanted to learn Singaporean Hokkien, perhaps rather than using textbooks (unless I need some grammar explanation) I'll just try to pick up random sentences from the Hokkien shows Mediacorp has been producing since 2016 and some of my favorite Singaporean movies as well.

Tough days

After two lessons with new tutors canceled in a row on Monday and Tuesday, I'm really glad to have a Sepedi class today. With my motivation dipping, these tiny things are really the highlight of my days and help me get through the week. I still have a Kusaal lesson tomorrow and my first Dholuo lesson on Friday, so despite everything, it feels like there's a lot to be happy for.

Bambara

I woke up and couldn't fall asleep anymore, so I decided to read about languages of Africa and - surprise, surprise - I just found this group of lovely SOV languages called "Mande". Adding Bambara to my language bucket list right away...

Sepedi

I'm dabbling yet another new language: Sepedi. It doesn't have clicks, but it does have ejectives, so I'm already getting in over my head on it.

I decided to make my life easier this time around and choose a language for which I have at least a grammar and a decent dictionary. That's the minimum criteria I'm going to try to apply whenever I choose a language to learn from now on (except when I want to learn something so badly that this doesn't matter).

For Sepedi specifically I couldn't find anything besides phrasebooks, so I'll still going to need a language helper. The nice thing is that there are school textbooks, readers from Grade R to 6 and quite a few CC children's books, so unlike other languages, there IS indeed substantial written content (unlike, say, with Kusaal, for which the Bible is apparently the only reading material available).

For now I'm definitely dropping Cisena, at least until I can get hold of a decent dictionary. Every attempt to have a conversation has been extremely frustrating, as I have to constantly ask the speaker how to say things.

Uzbek

I've been putting off the idea of learning a Turkic language for too long already, so I guess I'm going to set the long-term goal of trying to learn the basics of at least one of them at a very slow pace and with no commitment at all.

Music scene wise, I guess Kazakh would make a great choice, but linguistically wise Uzbek attracts me more with its Persian vibes. So yeah, I guess I'll stick with Uzbek for now...

Kusaal (2)

So far, I've been enjoying my Kusaal lessons. After going through the first lesson from my textbook, I'm getting my teacher to translate some very basic questions and answers that I'm likely to be need or to be asked in a first interaction with a Kusaal speaker.

For now, I'm just chilling and taking my time to see how the language works from these sentences without worrying too much about the tones. So far, no frustrations whatsoever. Once we're done, we'll probably continue with the textbook.

Although there's a draft dictionary for Agole Kusaal (as spoken in Ghana), it's still very sketchy. I've been using mainly the Toende one (from Burkina Faso), cross-checking with the Agole one when the form doesn't match.

At first, I could only find stuff for Toende, but now I have two Agole grammars: Musah (2018) and Eddyshaw (2021). I'm sure these will be very useful in the future...

Kusaal

After a few failed Cameroonian languages lessons, I'm glad to say that I've found a quite good Kusaal tutor at Preply. I'll try not to keep my hopes too high, but hopefully this is the beginning of a long and enjoyable journey.

Epic fail

After wasting the whole day trying to map Obo Manobo and Banaue Ifugao verbal focus patterns to Tagalog and Cebuano, I'm starting to think that I should rather try looking at them independently. I mean, comparing related languages isn't always a shortcut, I guess?

The best OST ever!

Looking back now so many years later, "The O.C." as a show had all kinds of flaws, but something that I can surely vouch for is its soundtrack. Oh boy, it's so perfect... and so friggin' nostalgic!

The wise man knows when to quit...

After 3 frustrating lessons, one in Ghomala' and two in Ngemba, I guess I'm putting on hold the idea of trying to learn a Cameroonian local language.

I try to keep my mind open when the language the speaker uses doesn't match the one found in a textbook, as we could be witnessing some fascinating phenomena which some languages undergo in order to readapt and survive. But my intuition tells me this is not the case and these speakers simply don't know the language well enough.

Better focus my time and energy on something else until I learn more about the linguistic situation in Cameroon.

Plateau

After 4 months of Ifugao classes, I decided to take a break from it. Partially it's because I'm busier these days, but the main reason is a frustrating plateau that I've been experiencing for many weeks now.

I've definitely learned quite a lot in 30 hours, though. Since I had no resources to start with, I dedicated the initial 12 hours to elicitation, and the rest, mainly to free conversation.

The dialect I'd been learning is that of Banaue. While the locals call it "Tuwali", linguists would rather call it "Amganad" and save "Tuwali" just for the dialect spoken in Kiangan and Lagawe.

My problem is that I still don't fully understand how the verbs work, so Dr. Zorc kindly shared with me his Proto Philippine worksheet. To the 47 sentences of my interest I added another 94, some as a backup, others to elicit other patterns. Now I need to take some time to analyze the data and see if I can get thru.

Some other major hindering factors are the lack of dictionaries (there's only a dated lexicon for Gohang Barrio) and that the grammar sketches available aren't exactly for Banaue. I'm not quitting just yet, but all that's something to take into account the next time I choose a language to learn.

Afrikaaps (2)

I'm glad that I managed to find a Kaapse Afrikaans tutor on Preply. Since the platform doesn't list Afrikaans as a subject, I had to message different English tutors from South Africa in order to find her.

This was tricky for a number of reasons:

Although there seems to be a growing body of written works in Kaaps, since kalahari.com was purchased I've been left with no bookstore I can order Afrikaans books from without going bankrupt - and no way I'm going to pay $100 for shipping.

Fortunately, one of Nathan Trantraal's poetry anthologies and Chase Rhys's novel do have ebook editions (the latter one even has an audiobook edition), besides some portions of the Bible (atheist disclaimer!) freely available online, so I already have something to work with.

Finally, besides the the dictionary project by UCW, it's also worth mentioning the SEcoKa (Syntactic Ecology of Kaaps) project, which has some very interesting publications on morphology and syntax. There are some other works, but they're old and dated, so I'll not be citing them here.

Languages for reading knowledge?

At my age, I'm trying to be realistic: I can only learn so many languages. Having added some rather minor ones to my bucket list means that I'll probably have to leave out some of the so-called major and more useful ones related to them. However, this doesn't mean that I couldn't develop a passive knowledge of them. I wouldn't be so ambitious as to expect to be able to read literature in those languages, but wouldn't it be freaking awesome to be able to do research in them? Just how feasible is it?

So far, all languages I've developed a decent reading knowledge of without actually learning them were either by accident or done in an unsystematic way. Now I've been considering giving one of those textbooks geared specifically toward reading skills a shot. I guess that they should work just as well as doing Assimil without making the effort to memorize things, but with the advantage of enabling an early exposure to written registers. But should I memorize vocabulary? Or is it just okay to look up unknown words in the dictionary every time?

Starting next month, I'm planning an one-month long learning experiment using the following Thai for reading knowledge textbooks (in order of priority):

Whatever the outcomes are, I hope to be able to come up with some answers on what works for me and what doesn't when it comes to learning how to read a language. I'm going to keep Russian, German, Dutch, MSA, Korean and Chinese for the future. Please wish me good luck :)