Thursday, September 30, 2010

Atúriahani (Studying)

I haven't posted much lately because I've been busy with an online master's degree program in applied linguistics that began recently. It's through the University of Massachusetts, and language learning is one of the central parts. I think it will be useful for teaching, missions, and my own language learning, which all tie together. One good thing is that I get to study Garifuna for some of my classwork.

The first class is applied linguistics. Not everyone in the program has a background in the field, so it's an introductory course, but aimed toward language learning and language teachers. One of my projects for this class is fieldwork in Garifuna. I'm looking at how imperative verbs (commands) work: intransitive, transitive, affirmative, negative, singular, plural, etc.

My second class is about cross-cultural perspectives. We have to spend time in a cross-cultural context, take field notes, and write a paper about several cultural themes. Since I get to interact with Garifuna friends in their homes, at Bible study, at church, etc., I can focus on some areas of interest and write about them.

My third class is about bilingual/multicultural education, and we are required to observe and write about some kind of program along these lines. There are Garifuna classes at an elementary school in a nearby community, and I'm hoping it works out to do my observations there.

My "cohort" ("classmates") and I have online discussion forums, so I get to share my experiences and learn from others. I'm still figuring out time management; the advantage is that I can program my own hours each week. I've done a lot of work today, so now I get to reward myself reviewing Garifuna verbs in a computer program. =) More on that next time. =)

Friday, September 17, 2010

Ábouguni (Cooking)

One of the most effective language and culture learning activities I've been using is cooking with Garifuna women. One advantage is hearing words and phrases repeatedly with minor variations: "Add salt," "Add a little onion," "We're going to boil it," "We're going to stir it," etc. I know a lot of kitchen vocabulary, so hearing it in a context while I complete an action reinforces what I know and helps me absorb small amounts of new information.

Another benefit is that doing an activity together reduces mental fatigue for me and patience depletion for the other person (!!!). =) It kind of takes the pressure off of conversations. Plus, I get to overhear what women say to their children, to other people who stop by, or even to themselves ("Where did I put ___?"). This is much more natural than explicitly asking how to say these expressions.

As some of you know, cooking has never been my forté. Furthermore, with a new array of ingredients available here (add yuca, for example, and take away CHOCOLATE CHIPS - sigh...) and cooking approaches (forget recipes, just call an older or sister or cousin if needed), I can use all the help available! It is a lot of fun and makes me think a Garifuna cookbook might be a fun project someday.

I thought I'd show you some of the things I've learned to make.

(The picture is not mine.) This is a typical meal of fried fish (úduraü), fried plantains (baruru), and rice and beans (literally called "rice and beans" in Garifuna). The hardest part is cleaning the fish (afúleihani), but the rest is easy: you just cut slits in the sides and put salt there before frying them. After almost losing a thumbnail, I can finally do a decent job slicing plantains. To make rice and beans, you season and boil the beans, and then add the residual water plus coconut milk (instead of water) to cook the rice, and you add the rest of the beans at the end. Sunha! (Done!)

This is tapado, a coconut soup with fish, ripe plantains, cooked green bananas, yuca, and spices.

Finally, I have to show a new cookie recipe I've found (cookies are typically the only edible thing I make). Step one is buying darara, yuca flour, at the local market (completing the transaction in Garifuna, of course). Then you just add a bit of salt (salu), an egg (gañéin), sugar (súgara), and oil (agüle), roll and flatten the dough into the size you want, and bake it. You might imagine the intended recipient of the cookies in the picture (my official tastetester).

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Biama líburu (Two Books)

I've been using a variety of helpful resources to learn more Garifuna, one of the best being this dictionary:

As you can see, one of the authors happens to be my favorite person of all time. Another bonus is that the dictionary is trilingual: Garifuna, Spanish, and English. (There are Garifuna people who live in Belize and in the United States, and some don't speak Spanish.)

When I hear a new word in a conversation, I look it up later, or sometimes I want to refresh my mind of a useful term I still can't remember easily.

In Garifuna, nouns and corresponding modifiers have gender agreement. This is found in many languages, such as Spanish and French. ("La casa es blanca." "El perro es blanco.") When I learn new words, I make sure to remember the gender so I can use them properly.

Another fun and useful component is the etymology of borrowed words. For example, if I want to know the word for "window," I find that it is "funedere," taken from the French word, "fenêtre." This helps me remember it as well as understand the sound system better.

Just for fun, let's look up "suddenly": "sódini," with the etymology note showing it somes from the English word. Nice to know!

The word for "paper" is "gárada," which comes from "carta" in Spanish.

And one last example is "ereba," the traditional cassava bread (more about this in a future post). This food is common among South American indigenous groups. For those of you familiar with northern South America, you know about the "arepa," a thick corn tortilla that is a main part of diet and prepared in many ways. Both come from the same word in Arawak.

I love this dictionary and use it frequently, as you can tell by the picture! It was a long, tedious process for those who compiled it, and now it saves me a lot of work in language learning!

The second book I use is the Bible in Garifuna:

Garifuna is one of only 451 languages in the world with a translation of the entire Bible (many languages only have the New Testament and portions of the Old Testament, and many more still have no Scripture). Fernando was part of the translation team, and the project took years of work. Here is a portion from Psalms:

Every week at church, someone reads a passage and the sermon is given in Garifuna. We also use the Bible for the Bible story project. When L, the story crafter, needs to hear a certain verse to make sure she's telling something correctly, I look it up for her and read it. This helps me learn the language and also allows me to understand new details about familiar passages.
I hear people say how much better the Bible sounds to them in Garifuna, and I certainly feel the same about English. It's a good reminder to thank God for what we have and pray and support the effort for others to have God's Word in their own language!