Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Linguistics and Language Learning

I thought you may be interested in seeing how the Ye'kwana language looks in written form.

Awa´deene yaaajäntädaawä Wanaadi cönaamode´nai caju, nono mmaja,

The time and effort put forth to achieve a phonetic break down of the language so that you may be able to transcribe what you are hearing into a phonetic alphabet is staggering. This will allow the translator to be able to reproduce the sounds he is hearing, which will be the first step in the language learning process. This requires listening for phonetic sounds and intonation patterns.

We use two methods to achieve this. TRACKING and MIMICRY.

Tracking is listening to a tribal speaker either on tape or in person, and quietly with your lips, or silently in your mind, repeat exactly what he is saying. Instantaneously mimic everything being said so that you are never more than 4 or 5 syllables behind the speaker. This is difficult at first but will become a real help to hearing and understanding the language in rapid speech. Tracking should become a habit. ( Non- tribal language learners could use this method with radio or television to good effect.)

Mimicry is working with yourself. It is copying the rhythm and pitch you hear in the spoken language. It is mimicking the people. Not just sounds but intonations also. One must take advantage of every opportunity to say things as they do, using their rhythm, pitch and expression. You can not possibly write down everything you hear and maintain the speed and rhythm of the spoken language, but you can mimic a lot as you hear it! Don't get the people to slow down for you, mimic them at their natural rate.

Mimicry is practicing with yourself while alone and when with the people. Lots of talking will cement the material you are learning. Your goal is to be as natural as possible and to sound as much like them as possible.

Memorization without adequate mimicry is a good way to ensure a foreign accent!

Anyone care to venture a guess at what the following means?

Awa´deene yaaajäntädaawä Wanaadi cönaamode´nai caju, nono mmaja,

(based on New tribes Language and Culture learning manual)


Pam--in Jerusalem said...

I'm going to guess that it's asking where the bathroom is... This word "cönaamode", looks a lot like "commode" to me ;)

MightyMom said...

funny, after 7 years of Spanish classes I've never heard this before...makes sense though.

I actually "learned" to speak (what little I can, now) through music. I enjoy Gloria Estefan, so I intentionally bought her Spanish language albums and painstakingly wrote the lyrics to every song...then translated them myself (even when a translation was given) in writing, then practiced singing in tempo and pitch with the CD over and over and over. This increased my vocabulary AND sped up both my ears and my mouth....as I had to keep in tempo. I would practice particularly fast sections like it was for an exam...just to teach my tongue to do it.

Funnily enough, Gloria herself gave me the insight I needed to be able to break past the slowness of my speech. In an interview she was referring to how people say she sounds different singing in Span vs Eng. She said "your tongue's not in the same place when you speak Span as in Eng so of course you're gonna sound different" for some reason, that made all the difference to me, I'd been trying to speak Spanish like it was English...when I learned to speak Spanish like Spanish the speed came more easily.

Theophilus said...

I get to guess what it means?? FUN!
Awa´deene yaaajäntädaawä Wanaadi cönaamode´nai caju, nono mmaja,
(the) Funny Canadian money can sing and dance.


Theophilus said...

That was me, Kopatopie/Phika/Nonohoicha by the way. Forgot to sign dad out

Jungle Mom said...

You have not heard this , most likely, because tracking and mimicry are linguistic tools taught to decipher non written languages. The two can and should be used for the learning of any language.

Jungle Mom said...

MM, Oh and the process you went through of witting out the lyrics is another excellent tool referred to as 'transcribing'.

Mustang said...

I think Awa´deene yaaajäntädaawä Wanaadi cönaamode´nai caju, nono mmaja means, "Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou, Romeo?"

Of course, I could be wrong.

Momma25 said...

My first thought had to do with bathroom too because when I was in Mexico with you guys I know that is something I needed to know how to say and cönaamode", looks a lot like "commode" to me too. However, I know Wanaadi means God from one of your previous blogs. I have heard Awa'deene I think when Steve Saint was at our church I am thinking in reference to Heaven maybe... so I am going to guess "For God so loved the world."

Gayle said...

Interesting, Rita, but I haven't got a clue! I did pretty well in Spanish until we moved to German and I studied that language. Made an "A" in it too, but still had a lot of trouble using it in real life. I tend to get the two foreign languages mixed up with one another. For instance, I would say things like "Vo ist su casa?" LOL! Evidently I have a hard time speaking more that two languages. To some people it comes far easier than to others.

Off topic, but I've done a post on Chavez, even though no one seems to be paying much attention to him in the US these days.

The Hermit said...

It means "Yankee go home but keep the foreign aid checks coming"

Kepler said...

Interesting post.
Are ä and ö like in German? Or rather nasal sounds?
Do you know of any attempt to print things in Yekwana?
I suppose there are some translations of the New Testament, right?
Something else like health things?
Venezuela's government after Chavismo will have to act very swiftly to preserve that and so many other native American languages.
Is there some degree of intelligibility with Pemon, as both are Carib languages?

Brooke said...

Very interesting! There must be so much nuance to truly becoming fluent in another language!

Jungle Mom said...

Momma25, Who are you??? DO I know you from Mexico?????

Jungle Mom said...

Yes, very nasal. Pemon and Ye'kwana are related but just barely intelligible. There are a few cognates words and similar grammar which one would expect.
NTM and other missionaries(We were never with NTM) have also printed a Venezuelan History, reading primers, some basic health and hygiene guide lines.
My husband worked mostly on teaching materials for education and Bible courses which could be done by correspondence.
We also held teaching seminars several times a year. Both in the area of education and religion. Always leaving printed matter behind.

SurvivalTopics.com said...

Do they have a written language too?

The Localmalcontent said...

"Why do you ask me to wade across this river first?"