Saturday, June 11, 2011

Amharic and Riding

In the past couple of days all of my blog traffic seems to be coming from wife's blog set up to discuss our ongoing adoption from Ethiopia.
All of my traffic!

First rule of any type of presentation: Know your audience. I figure since you're coming here from Agnostic Adoption maybe I should post something relevant. Of course I have to maintain some order here on my blog, which is about cycling in the Triangle area of North Carolina. So this post is my attempt to speak both about cycling and international adoption.

As you know, if you're arriving from Kyra's blog, we are learning Amharic this summer. Learning any language is a huge undertaking. Learning a language that is in an entirely different family from your first language is even harder. Amharic has several things going for it that make it very difficult. It has its own alphabet, Amharic Fidel (see below), that has no connection to the english alphabet. There are several sounds (The ejectives) that don't occur in English or any European language for that matter. Ejectives are harsh version of some good ol' consonants. Imagine a very hard k, t, or ch. Verb conjugation appears to involve modifying the beginning middle and sometimes end of the verb stem.

Amharic Fidel

Taken together, it looks like Kyra and I have bitten of quite a large bit to chew.

In comes the bike part of this post.

I learned in my high school theater experience, the best way to learn lines is to keep your body in motion while you do it. There is something about kinetic activity that helps my brain work. So I have been using my daily bike commute, that's two hours each day, to work on my Amharic.

I can't read while I ride my bike, I have to concentrate on the road and the traffic around me. However, if I go out with a plan in mind, e.g. recite my body part vocabulary, or practice those sounds that I've never made before, I can make my hour long bike ride a productive learning experience.

I look like a crazy person!

The guy on the bike repeating the sound for the letter K. I've spent several bike rides working on my ejectives, and it has paid off. I'm getting close to being able to reproduce the sounds and put them in words. Getting them into words turns out is the hardest part, so my new exercise is repeating words with multiple ejectives.

Some of my favorites:
Leaf- 'q'tel (That's an ejective k and t right in a row)
Cold- 'qeze'qaza (two ejective k's)
Delicious- 'tafa'ch (Ejective t and ch)

Anyway, the practicing on the bike has been a great addition to my daily commute. We are now working on "simple" verb conjugation. I hope the bike practice will help with this task.


Trevor Woodford said...

Thanks for your recent visit and comments on my 'purpletraveller' blog.
Thought that I would link in as a follower on your blog.....
Look forward to reading more posts and leaving more comments in the future..


Tabb said...

Thanks Trevor,
I look forward to seeing more photos of your bicycle travels.

Chandra said...

This reminds me of my attempt at learning Farsi! Good Luck!!

Peace :)

Tabb said...

Hi Chandra,
I hope this ends up being more than just an attempt, but with finishing my PhD Amharic gets shoved aside quite often in lieu of research and writing.


LBJ said...

I wholly support your project of getting more bike commuters in the triangle area. I used to live down there, and I found it really difficult to get between towns (esp. Chapel Hill/Carrboro to Durham area) on my bike. What I wound up doing was getting a Montague folding bike so I didn't have to brave the shoulders on the secondary highways but I could still ride my bike in town. It was great though, esp. in Chapel Hill where parking was a nightmare. I used to park at the satellite lots on the far edge of town and ride in to the university.