Friday, June 24, 2005

Making slow progress

Oh my, it's nearly the end of June and I'm still struggling with learning to read. Maybe it's the weather - in this +40C heat most times I feel like drinking frappe on the balcony, not pouring over textbooks in the presence of my tutor.

The good news is that I've made some progress with the vocabulary. And Kazakh does not seem to interfere so much with my Kyrgyz anymore. And yes, I've recorded some things for the Kyrgyz Wiki, so it's just a matter of formatting and uploading the text. Maybe next week?

Today we read a text about a Kyrgyz family to work on my pronunciation. Then we wrote a similar story about my own family. I found this very helpful for a number of reasons. The text has many repetitions, which are bound to make me remember useful expressions like "My (father/mother/brother) is ... years old". Another good thing about this is that by making the text more relevant to me I seem to remember it better. And I can use these sentences in actual conversations.

An interesting thing about Kyrgyz is that it has one pronoun, ал, that stands for "he", "she", and "it". As far as I understand, there's no grammatical gender whatsoever. That may make things easier... The difficult thing is to get used to having a string of affixes follow a one- or two-syllable root, containing a wealth of information. In the beginning this really feels like you have to learn to think backwards.

Oh yes, and I finally memorized what I am called in Kyrgyz. Котормочу. :)

Saturday, June 11, 2005

First Kyrgyz lesson

This is exactly what I meant by waning motivation. My trip to Naryn made me realize once again how essential it is to learn Kyrgyz. Upon my return to Bishkek, however, I became absorbed in my everyday work and it was only on Thursday that I went back to following-up on my language-learning plans.

We found a tutor, a journalism student from a local university, who agreed to commit herself to the (almost) daily teaching of two aspiring language learners. Yesterday was my first Kyrgyz lesson. I spent an hour in the afternoon examining the textbooks and repeating endless strings of words that meant absolutely nothing to me, save for a couple of phrases that sounded similar to Kazakh.

The challenge is to let go of the notion that the words are pronounced as they are written (which is the case with Kazakh). For example, if you have a г before ы, it is pronounced like the Kazakh ғ, or similar to the Modern Greek gamma, and not like the g in "get".

I think this blog is not the proper place for storing my newly-acquired knowledge for easy reference. So, being the computer geek I am, I went ahead and started the Kyrgyz wiki. The great thing about wiki is that it can be freely updated and edited by anyone. The Wikipedia is a good example of this (and there's even a Kyrgyz version of this encyclopedia).