“Lions and tigers and bears, Oh my.” Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz
This line reminds me of a place in Locust Grove, GA called Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary. There was a special trio called BLT: bear, lion, tiger. They were rescued together as babies and have grown up together at the sanctuary. This is an unnatural trio of predators. In nature, they would never be together because lions are from Africa, tigers are from Asia, and bears are from North America. To Dorothy, the Scarecrow, and the Tinman, these were their greatest fears in the dark woods along the path of the yellow brick road.
Language learning is a great fear for many people. As Americans, we endure the two years of foreign language in high school. We learn to read and write a language but never really know how to speak it or understand someone speaking. A few love learning language, some hate it, and others struggle through the whole process. After our high school exposure to a foreign language, we tend to forget almost everything we learned.
“Classes and tenses and agreements, Oh my,” has become a new saying for us.
Jeremy and I both have our own learning disabilities, so language learning is a struggle for us in different ways. We have completed 17 of 60 lessons here at language school. It became a little overwhelming by the end of the third week because in Kiswahili there are 15 noun classes, 15 tenses, and everything has to be in agreement within a sentence: subject, object, adjectives and verbs. Just this past Friday we were trying to explain why we were struggling to our language helper after being presented with the word AMEWAITENI. Only it was left of the original verb kuita which means to call. When you break down this word AMEWAITENI:
A – is the subject pronoun for he/she
ME – is the past tense
WA__ENI – is the object pronoun for all of you
IT – is the root of the verb kuita
(You drop beginning and ends of verbs to add the subject, object, and tenses.)
Literally, you can say a whole sentence in one word. Amewaiteni means He called all of you. I can read the word fine but to be listening to someone speak, you have to do so much to the verb to understand. Jeremy is struggling to even break down a word into the parts to understand the whole word.
Please pray for us as we try to learn Kiswahili. Every day we have 20-30 new vocabulary words being added and usually a new form of a tense. After 4 weeks, we probably have over 300 vocabulary words, 5 tenses, and nouns from 11 classes with their positive, negative and possessive pronoun forms. This is a lot to take in, understand and then to speak. It is truly a challenge for us. Please pray for ears to hear, minds to understand, and tongues to reply. We know we can only learn this language and its complexities with God’s help.