Well here I am. A throwaway comment from my parents saying that they were thinking about taking me to Fiji later this year has blossomed until TWO full language learning missions about to reach wondrous heights in the coming two weeks.
Well here I am. A throwaway comment from my parents saying that they were thinking about taking me to Fiji later this year has blossomed until TWO full language learning missions about to reach wondrous heights in the coming two weeks.
This is the most requested piece in the history of the blog.
Granted, I’ve been in writing retirement for a while (because I’m focusing more on my video game right now which is my life’s first priority at the moment), but in honor of Greenland’s National Day, I’ll be keeping with tradition and letting you know exactly where to turn if you want to begin your journey into the fascinating language of Greenlander Country (Kalaallit Nunaat – which literally means “to the Greenlanders their Land).
Some of you may know that I am the proud uploader of the first Greenlandic course in the history of Memrise.com. My courses are still there and encompass two very important elements:
Takulaaruk! – have a look! -> taku- (see) –laar- (a little bit, “please”, serves to make a soft command) + uk -> it.
In some extreme examples, you end up with words like “Nalunaarasuartaatilioqateeraliorfinnialikkersaatiginialikkersaatilillaranatagoorunarsuarooq” (Once again, they tried to build a giant radio station, but apparently it was only on the drawing board). Dissect this word in a comment and you’ll win a prize!
I get messages on a weekly basis on how to learn Greenlandic, and the Memrise courses in both English and Danish are a good start. (NOTE: they are accessible from the Desktop version despite the fact that the app version only offers the choices of the official courses. Memrise, you really need to fix that…)
One book that I’ve found extremely useful is the German-Language “Grönländisch – Wort für Wort” which explains the grammar very clearly and also provides a lot of useful phrases for all tourist situations. That said, I somehow feel as though the book itself isn’t going to fully equip you to speed-read the Greenlandic Language Edition of “Sermitsiaq” (a local newspaper).
For that, allow me to introduce to you one of the most useful and thorough dictionaries I have ever encountered: http://www.ilinniusiorfik.gl/oqaatsit/daka
Yes, it is Danish-Greenlandic and if you don’t know Danish you’ll probably get repetitive strain injury via copy-pasting everything into Google Translate. The dictionary includes both example words and phrases that fully illustrate how you use something.
Let’s show you an example from the book:
elske vb. (-de, -t)
~r ham, ~r hende asavaa (fx de ~r hinanden asaqatigiipput)
~r ham højt, ~r hende højt asaaraa
han ~r at rejse angalajumatuvoq
jeg ~r kaffe (ɔ: synes det smager herligt) kaffi mamaraara
I’ll translate this for you:
Loves him / her – asavaa (e.g. they love each other asaqatigiipput)
Loves him / her dearly – asaaraa
He loves to travel – angalajumatuvoq
I love coffee (i.e. thinks that it tastes great) kaffi mamaraara
One thing to understand about Greenlandic is the fact that its verb forms are difficult. There are intransitive forms (ones that you use when there is no direct object) and transitive forms (ones that you use when there is one). Granted, languages like Fijian and Hungarian also have similar systems as well, but in Greenlandic each pair of subject -> object determiners is different.
At 4:19 in this video you can see the full conjugation of intransitive verbs:
nerivunga – I eat
nerivutit – you (sing.) eat
qitippunga – I dance
qitipputit – you (sing.) dance
Later on in the video comes the “atuar-“ root which means “to read” (a word that didn’t exist in Greenlandic prior to foreign contact).
There is one issue with a lot of learner-ese in Greenlandic, the fact that making a jump to native level material can be VERY DIFFICULT (especially if it is very poetic material like Nanook’s song lyrics).
One thing that would be helpful is to listen to the BEGINNING of words and recognize the roots of each word first of all. In Greenlandic and other polysynthetic languages, all words have a “base” on which other words are made.
Illoqarfimmut -> to the city.
Illu is the base. And it means “house”. Qar -> to have. fik -> place where there are. mut -> towards.
“Towards the place where yon be houses.”
The language works with mathematical precision precisely for this reason. Greenlandic isn’t necessarily difficult on paper it is just very hard to get used to. But that in of itself has earned it the coveted title of “hardest language I ever attempted”. (Palauan is second place).
This thread here provides a thorough list of resources: https://www.duolingo.com/comment/18623583/Resources-for-Greenlandic-Kalaallisut
Some others I would really like to mention:
Glosbe.com is also very useful by virtue of the fact that its cross translations will ease you into reading Greenlandic even if the words seem very intimidating.
What’s more, you can also begin writing your own sentences, however simple, to gain an active understanding of the language.
Lastly there is a lot of bilingual Danish / Greenlandic material present on websites such as KNR are Sermitsiaq.
You’re probably wondering if it is possible to learn Greenlandic without Danish at all. Perhaps, but do keep in mind that a small amount of loan words as well as all numbers higher than 12 are taken straight from Danish, not also to mention that it would also be useful for your Greenland journey as well (as things stand).
Lastly I’m here to help in any way I can. I may not know the language too well, and it isn’t my best one . When I was there I usually managed basic tourist functions with ease but nothing very deep. That said I can provide help or even provide more resources if necessary.
If I have my way, Greenland-o-mania may be taking over the world before we know it!
Inuiattut ulluanni pilluaritsi! (Happy Greenland Day!)
Happy Birthday to Kathy Gimbel! (My Mom!)
Well three months of Fijian is, in a sense, over! But my studying and love of the Fijian language will, as things stand, never cease!
Did I become fluent in it? At the VERY least, I have a solid grounding in things related to tourism and getting around. At the most, I may be able to teach classes in Fijian will little of an issue!
A lot of people ask me if it is possible to learn a language in a short amount of time, especially given the endless debates about Benny Lewis’s “Fluent in 3 Months” name. (Do we need another reminder that the title is actually a challenge rather than a promise?)
Here is my honest opinion: in three months, it is VERY possible to assemble the FRAME of a language. This means that you (1) understand the pronunciation (2) understand how sentences are made (3) understand how various parts of speech (e.g. adjectives, nouns, verbs, etc.) are formed and where they go in a sentence. (Example: in a language like English an adjective would go before a noun in modifies, in Fijian it would go after, hence “the Bible” would be “iVola Tabu” [yes, the word “tabu”, from where we get the word “tabu” in English, DOES also mean “holy” in addition to something not spoken about or treated with holiness!]).
Once you make the FRAME, you start filling in the “picture”, which is vocabulary from which you acquire from reading / using the language / other means. I’m already 700+ words into my Fijian Memrise course (I intend to put the whole glossary of the Lonely Planet Guide into it!)
Anyhow, here are some observations:
Learning how to say basic sentences (and then, later on, more complicated sentences) is a confidence builder that will enable you to assemble the “frame”, however slowly.
In learning Fijian, I turned on audio about three weeks in and I could barely understand any of it except for when they lapsed into English (which, predictably, does happen in radio broadcasts—English is an official language of Fiji, after all). This actually got me away from immersion (which was the path of least resistance when I was learning English Creoles, for example) and more focused on my active abilities.
In a sense, this was an advantage – because I focused a lot more on my own acquisitions rather than expecting passive work to “do everything”. I did do some immersion at points, even when I felt I wasn’t really ready, in order to pick out key words, note sentence structure or, best of all, improve my accent. (The Fijian “r” and “s” in particular are very juicy—not surprisingly, many people from places like Papua New Guinea will speak English with heavily rolled r’s and thick s’s that sound like the “ce” in “Joyce”)
Even what may seem like heavy disadvantages can be used to hack your brain into getting it doing what needs to be done.
I remember one time that I was reciting Fijian phrases for a friend I remarked that I was “speaking Fijian with a New York Accent” (wait, that was last night, wasn’t it?) That said, I repeated the phrase in something that sounded more like natural Fijian as spoken by a native speaker.
I was really worried that I sounded like a “white person” in my first batch of recordings for the 30-Day Speaking Challenge, but interestingly enough I noticed that the more Fijian I spoke, the more I would be attuned to the pronunciation norms, especially when I would listen to Fijian music during my commute. (Warning: a lot of contemporary Fijian music does rely heavily on auto-tune, so some may prefer radio over music for that).
This is a good thing to keep in mind for my next three-month mission (May – July) as well as for future ones.
Fijian pronouns have FIFTEEN forms. Let’s have a look at this chart, shall we?
Guess how many of them I was using in my speaking exercises? Usually just “au”, “eratou” and “era” (sometimes pronounced as “iratou” or “ira”). For those unaware: paucal is for a GROUP of things, plural is for a LARGE GROUP of things (or speaking about a species or type of person in general).
And then of course the possessives were even odder because there are multiple possessive forms depending on whether you own the object substantially, will eat it, will drink it, or … miscellaneous.
I had to do a bunch of table recitations (and use them in sentences) in order to get this “missing information” in my head, because these pronouns and possessives ARE important!
Little I can say to this other than what I just wrote. In going through my Memrise lists there were so many words I didn’t know or recognize, but the important thing is to not get discouraged and move forward!
I can imagine that actually being in Fiji will be a significant guide for me to “conform” and patch up on my knowledge accordingly. I’ll learn a lot of aspects of formality and slurred speech than I may have not been able to pick up from my books or from the speaking exercises accordingly. I intend to believe in myself!
I’ll continue to be working on Fijian accordingly, but now that I’ve “assembled the frame”, I think I could turn my focus elsewhere. I’ve been working on Fijian almost non-stop for the whole year, and I’m itching for a new project.
So for May – July (as things stand) I’ll be doing Kiribati / Gilbertese (in addition to “sides” of other languages) and for the fall (August – October) I’m likely to focus on Hungarian. These were two languages I’ve dreamed of learning and this is the year they’ll get the attention they deserve!
Lastly I’d like to thank all of my readers for believing in me and writing supportive comments. Also! Ask questions! Suggest future articles! This blog continues to exist because of readers like YOU!
While I’ve been doing some light studying of Fiji Hindi on and off since October 2017 on my YouTube channel, I only began studying Fiji Hindi in earnest about a week and a half ago, having made it my primary project for April 2018 given that I’ve become ever more comfortable with Fijian.
Yes, I’ve been getting significant pressure to focus more on Standard Hindi (mostly from people who know very little if not in fact nothing about Fiji), but Fiji Hindi it is, because it is the “language of the heart” concerning pretty much all Indo-Fijians. Standard Hindi may be useful but my first priority is ensuring that I can manage Fiji Hindi well enough (because pretty much nowhere else online have I encountered anyone doing what I’m doing with Fiji Hindi right now).
I’ve made four recordings in Fiji Hindi thus far for the 30-Day Speaking Challenge and already I’ve noticed a drastic improvement in me being able to put sentences together. That said, I still speak in a very simple manner and come NOWHERE CLOSE to being able to ask for directions / order things in restaurants using only Fiji Hindi.
The process of making those recordings, on the other hand, has been difficult for a number of reasons:
While Fiji Hindi is, from the perspective of linguistic concepts, not too difficult (Palauan and Greenlandic required a lot of mind-bending), from the perspective of resources it has been the most difficult language I’ve encountered.
At least with Fijian I had phrasebooks. With Palauan I had a good website (tekinged.com). With Kiribati / Gilbertese I had a good textbook as well as several thorough online dictionaries.
For Fiji Hindi, I’ve haven’t had as many materials that have significantly eased the process for me. There is the Glosbe Sentence dictionary, as well as the Live Lingua Project (look under Fijian for the Fiji Hindi Course!), not also to mention a series of good grammar books (available on Google) and an excellent Memrise Course.
Oh! And there’s Wikipedia available in Fiji Hindi as well (https://hif.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pahila_Panna).
For dictionaries, I use Glosbe’s sentence translations, the CTRL-F function on various books, and this dictionary which tends to be very clearly hit-or-miss (http://www.oocities.org/fijihindi/FijiHindiEnglishDict.htm). For verb conjugations there’s Wikiversity (from which I compiled this video walking you through the conjugations):
That said, a lot of these materials have been inconsistent in multiple ways (e.g. writing systems, the grammar book even uses the Devanagari script which even the Wikipedia [intended for native speakers] doesn’t use, the Peace Corps book uses upside-down e’s and the Memrise course doesn’t [and neither does the Wikipedia or the small bit of the Lonely Planet South Pacific Phrasebook devoted to Fiji Hindi]).
In a sense, this language has been very hard because even sculpting a SIMPLE SENTENCE can take multiple cross-references of all of these materials as well as using Google Search’s function to find out how legitimate (or not) a simple phrase is (to do this, use quotation marks to ensure that the EXACT combination of words you’re looking for exists somewhere. This can [and usually does] work even for languages with small internet presences!)
There’s also Fiji Indian TV (at http://www.fijiindiantv.com/ , with a lot of their videos hosted on YouTube) and the amount of English loan words used is staggering (and a friend of mine, Kevin Fei Sun of Bahasantara [https://medium.com/bahasantara] gave me fair warnings about how commonly they’re used even in Standard Hindi). I’ve been using this to ensure that my accent is…well…better…in some respect…because both in person and on YouTube I’ve had people telling me that I “sound like a white person” when I speak Fiji Hindi.
Maybe all I need is more effort and speaking practice invested in Fiji Hindi and the problem will “go away”. But if you’ve ever had this issue with Indo-Aryan Languages (regardless of what race you are), then do let me know! I’m always ready to hear inspiring stories!
After a week or two of recordings, I’ll set in place goals to ensure that I don’t have “gaps” in my Fiji Hindi vocabulary, much like I did with Fijian in February and March.
By the way, the March 2018 30-Days-of-Fijian recording WILL be up by next week!
This is the beginning of what promises to be a very exciting journey!
The most commonly spoken language of the country in the world with the most languages, Tok Pisin is a language that unites Papua New Guinea and its manifold ethnicities. My first English Creole Language, Tok Pisin was described by a friend of mine as “Jamaican Patois that seems completely unintelligible to the native English speaker”.
Let’s head over to Glosbe, a fantastic resource that combines the dictionary and sentence database in many languages of the world, and look at a sample sentence to see how much of it you can understand:
“Em i nambawan gutpela pasin bilong laikim ol narapela, olsem God Jehova yet i kamapim.”
Rendered by the English translation as:
It is the highest form of love, as exemplified in Jehovah God himself.
But try looking at it this way:
“Him is number one good fellow fashion belong like him all ‘nother fellow all same God Jehova yet is come up him”
And let’s try the sentence after that (I looked up “love” in Glosbe and that’s where I’m getting these sentences from)
6 Ol gutpela wasman i wok strong long tingim olgeta wan wan sipsip long kongrigesen.
(6 Loving Christian shepherds endeavor to show personal interest in each sheep in the congregation.)
“Six all good fellow watch man is work strong long think him altogether one one sheep sheep long congregation”
If you’re learning a language from the developing world, as thing stand, you’ll encounter a LOT of materials for Christian missionaries. Tok Pisin is no exception to this.
Tok Pisin is a fascinating language and the first one that I acquired a C2 level in (which is denotes being able to understand pretty much everything and use very, very well). My interest was sparked in it as a result of my father’s travels in Papua New Guinea (in Port Moresby and Madang in particular).
Various opportunities that Tok Pisin provide include:
So let’s introduce you on how to start the journey, shall we?
For one, a book I would highly recommend for beginners is the increasingly available Lonely Planet Pidgin Phrasebook, which includes Tok Pisin and its grammar explained in detail, not also to mention cultural notes, as well as other sections in that book on Bislama (Vanuatu) and Pijin (Solomon Islands)
These two languages, while more closely related to each other, are also more closely related to English and use slightly more complicated prepositions. In Bislama the verb system has an element of vowel harmony as well that Tok Pisin doesn’t have. Bislama also has more French influence than either Pijin or Tok Pisin. Tok Pisin also has notable German influence as well, and so to say “even though” or “it doesn’t matter” you say “maski” which is a form of “macht nichts” (“never mind”, or “don’t do anything”)
German missionaries were in the process of standardizing Tok Pisin and spreading its usage but then World War I happened which through a wrench in the whole process. (Yes, Germany had a colonial empire in that area of the world, Nauru also was one of their holdings as well).
Anyhow, the Lonely Planet Book doesn’t have a dictionary but will provide very useful phrases as well as the most essential and clear grammar guide that you can ask for.
The Live Lingua Project also has its own Tok Pisin textbook that is written in more detail.
After that you can put “Redio Tok Pisin” into YouTube and rehearse your skills, not also to mention various materials for governments, industries and yes, missionaries:
An essential resource as well as is a Tok Pisin Memrise course that has 2400 words which are essential for having fluid conversations. This course was ESSENTIAL for me becoming fluent in the language. You can find it here: https://www.memrise.com/course/135215/tok-pisin-2400/
(You can access this course from the desktop and then if you connect the Memrise app to your account, you can access it [and all other user-made courses] in the app as well).
I also have the Anki Version of this course as well (ask me if you want me to send it to you).
What’s more, Tok Pisin also has a “website” (https://www.tok-pisin.com/).
Other resources would include Wantok Niuspepa, the one Tok Pisin Language newspaper still remaining in Papua New Guinea and EMTV Online (which broadcasts smaller things more readily accessible for beginners).
You’ll notice that in some materials, especially distributed in cities or towns, that there is a bit of a “hopping” between English and Tok Pisin, and the usage of English is, obviously, spreading. That said, Tok Pisin is still a very important element of PNG culture and still the most commonly spoken language in Papua New Guinea.
Lastly, Wikipedia has a Tok Pisin edition at: https://tpi.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fran_pes
Keep in mind that while native speakers of Tok Pisin exist, most speakers of the language will speak it fluently as a second language (as some people of Papua New Guinea may also know English). This means that already you have a chance to be on equal footing with most people who speak it.
Mi hop olsem bai yu laikim Tok Pisin tumas! (I hope you will like Tok Pisin a lot!)
2018 is nearly a quarter-done and I could barely believe it given that it seemed as though only a few hours ago I was welcoming in the year by jumping off a chair, Danish-style.
After the pure euphoria that was the 2017 Polyglot Conference (and my presentation at it), I expected to rake in victory after victory this year, but so far I don’t think that it has happened. For one, I developed a partnership to develop “Nuuk Adventures” as soon as their new game comes out and it was postponed from January to April. I found myself losing a lot of motivation, burning out and just “wanting to take a break”—from game making, from language learning, pretty much everything, to be honest. I continue to feel detached and suspicious.
This month I had two challenges, one for Fijian and another for Lao. Fijian, no big surprise, made the largest share of gains. I feel that I could navigate my way around the countryside in Fiji without using English now. In a few days begins April, and then my focus will shift to Fiji Hindi with most of my efforts with Fijian focused on education and the Memrise course I’m working on.
With Fijian, every single one of my weak points has been significantly dealt with, in part because of a YouTube series that I made that you can watch here. I figured that if I were having trouble with some things, other learners of Fijian would as well:
The grammar I have practically mastered, thanks in part to the 30-Day Speaking Challenge when I successfully completed (I’ll post it during April).
I’ve noticed my pronunciation is better but I certainly don’t sound like a native speaker at all.
Lao was interesting. I devoted 30 minutes a day to it (much like I did Fijian, and often this resulted in later nights and earlier mornings). This included the following activities:
Am I fluent? No. Am I making progress? Yes, but I sidelined it because for April I’m focusing almost exclusively on Fiji Hindi as well as Fijian.
Already Fiji Hindi is opening doors for me, given that it is sometimes mutually exclusive with Hindi and Urdu. The differences between these languages also make for good conversation points. Sometimes I’ve been told that I “speak like a white guy” but above all most people with whom I have used it have been appreciative.
In addition to that I’ve now been learning about Indo-Fijian history, which makes me appreciate the overall Fijian story in a new light.
So goals for April:
I’m also ALWAYS open to the idea of finding more iTaukei (Indigenous Fijian) and Indo-Fijian music. So if you know anything you’d recommend, let me know!
April makes the third month of my 3-Month Fijian Challenge. I intend to make it a great one!
In late January I heard that I might be spending the summer in Fiji (or, at least, a part of it).
As a result of being lightly disappointed with the fact that I put off studying Burmese until I got my visa to Myanmar for my Spring 2017 venture (something I should have NOT done, I should have begun studying Burmese as soon as the idea became entertained), I decided to do the opposite this time and invest in Fijian (and Fiji Hindi) as QUICKLY as possible, despite the fact that there is a possibility this trip may not happen at all.
One Lonely Planet book, many songs, and one-half of the 30-Day Speaking Challenge later, I find myself in a good place with Fijian, one that significantly surpassed what I was able to do with Burmese in May 2017.
Granted, part of this is likely due to the fact that (1) Fijian isn’t the first Austronesian language I’ve studied (I did some flirtation with Tongan in 2017 and committed myself to Gilbertese in January) (2) the fact that there is no new alphabet to learn and (3) the fact that there are more English loan words in Fijian than in many languages dissimilar to English.
Within the past week I’ve done away with my problems with numbers, leaving dates and time to be my biggest weak point, not also to mention getting vocabulary to “stick”.
I’ve also had issues in getting a steady stream of Fijian-language material.
For one, English is the lingua franca of Fiji (given that there are the iTaukei, the indigenous Fijians who speak “Na Vosa Vakaviti” as their first language, as well as the Fiji Indians who speak Fiji Hindi as their first language).
Second, SBS Australia (Special Broadcasting Service, in case you were curious) discontinued its Fijian-language programming last year, leaving me with the archives and nothing else.
Third, even on those broadcasts there sometimes is a significant portion of dialogue that can happen in English.
Fourth, it’s easier to find material from languages spoken in the developed world for too many reasons to count (The sheer rich variety of material in languages Finnish and German seemed to make their difficulty almost vanish, in a sense).
I’ve noticed that my accent in Fijian is getting better despite the fact that I’ve made no deliberate efforts to improve it. That said, I do have some issues with the r (which is rolled deliciously in Fijian). Another thing to keep in mind about Fijian pronunciation is the fact that the s is pronounced with extra spice. The word “boys” spoken by a Fijian speaking English would be pronounced like “boyce”.
My listening comprehension does need to improve (and I’ll go on recording say that Lao was the easiest dissimilar-from-English language to comprehend as a beginner. I honestly have no idea why.) Fijian, much like many other languages of Oceania, is spoken quickly although it did not leave me as “flattened” by its sheer speed the way that Gilbertese did. I have no intention on slowing down my audio but instead celebrating my small victories in listening to broadcasts (“Wow! I know what they’re talking about!”)
Where do I go from here?
My new CleartheList for Fijian:
– Dates and Time (new video coming soon, most likely!)
– Possessive suffixes and pronouns FULLY MASTERED
– Create Memrise Course with vocabulary from the Lonely Planet Phrasebook
– Get more music! (All music is appreciated!)
ALSO! Important for learners of Fijian! If you are looking for music, broadcasts, material, etc, don’t forget to use both “Fijian” in some searchs and “iTaukei” in others.
“iTaukei” literally means “indigenous”, and as a result of Fiji’s most recent constitutional changes it refers to the indigenous inhabitants of Fiji, whereas Fijian refers to all inhabitants of Fiji. Hence, Fiji Indians would be Fijians but not iTaukei.
(If you know anything about iTaukei / Findian relations, let me know!)
I’m so grateful I’ve decided to do this.
But not so complicated it can’t be done, mind you!
Next week for Lee Morrow’s Project Polyglot, I’ll be presenting on a self-learning!
Read more about it / register here!