Saturday, April 7, 2007

Infantile Language Acquisition

Today was the first day that I really felt like I will actually be able to learn Pulaar du Nord. The rumors floating around the center are that Pulaar is the hardest language to learn. Lucky me. Those of you who are not linguists bear with me, but I feel like I have to share how tricky of a language Pulaar really is...

There are 24 different articles. In the English language we have 2: the and a. We will not even be learning them until IST (In Service Training in August).
When a verb is in the Infinitive form for example, Wottaade (to lunch) it is easily identifiable. BUT...what happens when the verbs are conjugated...in the plural persons (we-exclusive and inclusive..there are 2 kinds, you all, and they) then the W changes to NG. yeah. okay, plus the endings are all different in the past tense, and the negative past tense. SO:
to say that "They lunched" the verb goes from looking like Wottaade to Ngottiima.
Yeah, not easy. It's going to take some serious memorization.

But finally, after two solid weeks of language classes and a serious kick in the butt from my host family, I am finally getting it. They have sworn off of French with me and my host dad has forbidden the girls to speak Wolof to eachother around me. At least I have their support. But it has been quite a challenge for us all to go from speaking constantly and giggling endlessly to a largely silent, and slow repetitious relationship of:
how are you
i am fine
my name is....
today i learned pulaar. we studied the past tense. it was hard.
i ate fish and rice for lunch yesterday. it was really spicy.
etc.

Here is what a writte Pulaar introduction of myself looks like:

Mbiyete mi ko Oumou Sall
Njeyaa mi ko california e ameriq.
mbido jogi nogaas e tati
Mbido jogi minirabe dido e mawnirabe goto gorko.

you get the idea. Try practicing out loud. I know you all are. And I bet you sound hilarious.
I'm just glad that I'm feeling optimistic about my abilities at this point. We have a language assessment on Tuesday covering every competency that we've learned: Greetings, Introducing yourself, talking about your family, and the past tense. I'm worried. Needless to say I'll be doing a LOT of studying this weekend. Assuming of course that the electricity holds up. Otherwise I'll be doing it all during the day.

Nalen e jam!

1 comment:

wendy said...

Shmait-I so look forward to your stories. I love picturing you shrieking at the sight of cockroach...this is something I can absolutely sympathize with because NYC roaches also loke to run towards you instead of away. And I give you lots of props for learning Pulaar. I would probably stick to sign language :) I love you!!