Thanks to the hard work of Amy and Lucy, our language coaches, I am now able to speak a few sentences in Swahili, and able to understand a large base vocabulary! I was so surprised to realize while at a Swahili church service (more about that in a later post!) that I could actually catch a relatively large number of the words!
We used the Growing Participator Approach (GPA) of language study, which really just meant that instead of focusing on the grammar of Swahili, we started by building our understanding of a number of words. In essence, Lucy would say a word in Kiswahili and we would all respond by pointing to the appropriate object. After almost two weeks of just listening “furiously,” we began to replicate the sounds ourselves. Our first attempts to speak were very entertaining! As we continued to learn new words and phrases, we then started saying those, even to the point of asking and answering questions in Swahili.
Sometime during the middle of the month, after walking to one of the villages and attempting to talk with a number of children, I wrote the following poem to express my hopes and frustrations in learning Swahili.
I am listening, but cannot hear
Sounds echo, then disappear.
Familiar words, like lone trees stand
Distant markers in a foreign land.
You are talking, this I know,
Someday I’ll catch it if you go slow.
One word here, another there,
Nouns and verbs, sentences rare.
The river flows, swirling on
Driftwood floating, floating on.
One day in this river I will swim,
Listening, hearing, drowning no more.
Now, at the end of the first month (or Phase 1) of the GPA language program, I am by no means fluent (that often takes a number of years!), but in many cases, I can use Swahili words and a few phrases to communicate. The best part is that I can understand far more words and sentences than I can self-create!
I can’t leave without saying that this month would not have been possible (or productive) without the gracious and patient help of Lucy, our Tanzanian language helper (and friend!).