Friday, June 13, 2008

Language Learning

I want to give an update on my progress and also share some thoughts on language learning. After returning from our furlough during the month of April, I jumped right back into my Kabiye studies. The process looks a little different now than it did before furlough, but the idea is still the same: get out and speak it!Working on a lesson I wrote with Eyabane, a leader in the church in the village of Kaacaade

Instead of having class 4 times a week and studying straight out of the book, my language teacher and I have adopted a strategy of thirds. One-third book study, one third translating (English or French into Kabiye), and one-third heading out to the village together to get practice/correction/guidance in a hands-on way. So far, I am enjoying and benefiting most from the translation portion of my study time; I think this is because it helps me to see more clearly that Kabiye people don't say things the same way that I say them. Seeing something in English and then turning it into Kabiye sheds alot of light on the Kabiye way of phrasing things. The cool thing is, I am actually starting to think that way sometimes :)
Playing a Mancala-type game with my friend Nestor in the village of Legue Legue
Language learning is a funny thing. Just when you start to feel a little confidence in your abilities, you get knocked down and have to drag yourself up again. The ups and downs are full of both joys and frustrations, with very little in between, at least for me. I have found it to be an ever-evolving process, with some strategy or approach working well one day and then being barely useful the next. I have also found that it is a series of milestones and small victories. In the picture above, I am playing Mancala with my long-time friend, Nestor. We met on my internship 5 years ago and have spent alot of time together since then. Over the years, we have probably played about 20 or 30 games of Mancala, and I have never won; until this past Saturday!

Yeah, it's just a small victory, one win out of 30, but it gave me great joy. I immediately saw it's symbolic nature in relation to my language learning, showing that while they may be few and far between, a series of small victories will eventually win me fluency in the hardest task I have ever taken on: learning the Kabiye language.

Finally, I want to stress how I have seen that language is gift from God that only He can give. He formed the Kabiye language and knows it even more intimately than the Kabiye themselves. Please Lord, open my mouth to speak and my ears to hear!


Miss G said...

really cool post, Brett and congratulations on your win!
I really liked what you said about God knowing the Kabiye language even more intimately than the Kabiye. He is sooo BIG. Kelly

Brett, April, Caden & Corban said...

I just wanted you to know that I love watching you communicate in Kabiye...everything from understanding what someone (a teammate or kabiye person) is saying to speaking the language (and watching their eyes light up as they witness a "white man" speaking their language) to sharing God's word with a group of people. I love it all! I look forward to witnessing your continued grasp of the's God-awesome.

nicolekennell said...

What good perspective on language learning. I will be looking this up again about this time next year!