“The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing;
He makes the plans of the peoples of no effect.”
Other possible titles:
“My, oh my”
“Flexibility is the Key”
“Breakthrough – somehow”
“Only someone with an English major can appreciate this”
Well, the big month of August has arrived! For those of you that don’t know, my kids are in America, and Doug and I had BIG plans of really learning the language exponentially better this month.
Our “teachers” went to class for three weeks in July to learn HOW to teach us the language. The first day we started, my teacher was so excited. I had 8 hours set aside, but her lesson plans only filled 20 minutes of time. She said, “I didn’t know you would get it that fast.”
Day two went pretty much the same, so we decided to venture out and talk to people. It was a disaster.
On the third day, I ended up doing the teaching because even though she had discovered in class that there were nouns and verbs in her language, she was using words like “gerund” and “auxiliary verb” she had heard in class, but she didn’t know what they meant.
So I started showing her some sentence structure. I even took a lot of Lugbara sentences and tried to find structure (for the first time). She was amazed. I was finding patterns to a language where we didn’t know patterns existed!! The fourth and fifth day, she said, “I want you to show me how you came up with that pattern. Teach me how you did that.”
On the weekend, Doug and I sat down to assess our learning. We agreed we are digging deeper every day, but “learning” would be a difficult word to use here.
We decided we really didn’t know much of anything, so we needed to start at square one….like infants learning to talk for the first time.
The following Monday, Doug and his teacher, James, and me and my teacher, Florence, all sat together for the first time to “discover” the language.
We started by translating sentences like:
I give money
I do give money
I did give money
I have given money
I gave money (there are three tenses for the past – immediate (within 3 hours), near (within a day), or far past (indefinite).
I will give money (there are also three future tenses)
You get the idea.
Well, we did this for over 20 verbs over a course of 3 or so hours. They’ve never thought about HOW to say things in their language, so it took them a long time to diferentiate between certain sentences.
We still didn’t have a pattern.
So we backed up and decided JUST to look at the present. We took the 20 sentences we had created for the present tense, and added 55 more verbs, and it started occurring to Doug and I at the same time what the pattern was, although it was difficult to “name” it.
We wondered why we could say:
I run home.
I love him.
I sit down.
But we also had to say:
I money give (not – I give money)
I tree see (not – I see the tree)
I dishes wash (not I wash dishes)
I know this is boring you, but basically we surmised that verbs dealing with the head, heart, hands, and senses are always subject + object + verb in the present.
Verbs dealing with whole body, emotions, or moving the body TO a place were always subject + verb in the present. And of course, funny verbs like “Be verbs” and “to have” and “to want” are irregular in most cases.
THIS was just the beginning. Of course, THEN we had to look for patterns in past and future as well. THEN we had to look for changes when using different subject pronouns (you, he, we, you (plural), and they). THEN we wondered if there were patterns in Commands. (Bored, yet?)
We also saw things like verbs beginning with vowels do different things to the subject in the past. Verbs beginning with vowels that can’t be split in a sentence also do other things (trust me – you don’t want me to explain).
This took one week, several hours a day. On Friday we got to negatives like:
I do not run home.
I did not run home.
They were confused. After a few hours, we called it quits, and we will start again tomorrow (on Monday) trying to figure out this language.
The bad news is: I’m not speaking any better, and now I am thinking about subject/verb order and whether the verbs starts with a vowel or not, etc.
The good news is: It is refreshing to know why I haven’t been able to make sentences correctly for a year and a half. I had to guess every time I opened my mouth!
So, I’m not sure how much better I’ll be at speaking by the end of the month, but it is possible I’ll have an entire grammar book written for future generations.
Ahhhh….sweet structure…..I’ve been missing you!