Language Learning

I have lived in Tanzania now for close to a year and a half. One of the big reasons we chose to come work in TZ as Global Workers with the PAOC was the opportunity to learn Swahili. Yes, other African nations do speak Swahili but it is most prevalent and more “proper” you could say, in Tanzania. So this is the best place to learn GOOD Swahili.

My husband does speak Swahili but his Swahili is typically Kenyan (mixed with English and/or his Mother Tongue – Kisii). And over the years learning from my husband has proved to be impossible. πŸ™‚ He quickly tires of me asking “what does that mean again?” (Note: always better not to have your significant other try to teach you … anything). πŸ˜‰

I started officially learning the language just over a year ago in April of 2012. I have an amazing teacher who comes to my house and makes it easy. She is very patient and she goes at my pace. I started with a three-week intensive introduction to Swahili where I had a 3 hour lesson every day for three weeks. It was a bit overwhelming but at the same time, really allowed me to just dive in and start learning right away. After that initial phase I continued with weekly lessons (3 hours a week for several months). Then I took a LONG break from October 2012 until last week. My family came to visit, we were really busy with work and we went home to Canada for a quick fundraising tour and visit for 4 weeks in February. But I have been wanting to start my studies again for a while now. My teacher has been very busy with a full schedule of students but finally found some time and so here we are.

Some days I feel like I still have a long way to go and other days I feel like I have come so far at the same time. I can now after a year, hold a conversation. Nothing crazy – I can’t debate about anything or explain complicated things in detail but I can have a basic conversation. And considering a year ago I only knew a handful of words in Swahili I am actually quite proud of myself. See I do not speak any other language – only English. (Mostly I blame my parents who never put me in French school as a child). πŸ˜‰ I have always wanted to be able to speak other languages, so this is a big deal for me. Whenever I see a Mzungu (white person) speaking fluent Swahili here it just fires my passion to get there – to reach the point where I am fluent in two languages. That’s the dream. So that is what I’m working towards. The other good thing about learning in Tanzania is it forces you to learn more than say, Kenya does. (I lived in Kenya for a year and only learned a few words of Swahili). Swahili is the MAIN language here, English is second and many people, even in the city do not speak English, so it does push you more to learn as compared to Nairobi where everyone speaks English and especially when they see me (white, blond, Blue-eyed…).

So I am very excited to be starting a third round of language studies. I hope it will take me to that next level of being more comfortable speaking Swahili, on my way to becoming bilingual.

The wonderful thing about living here at this time too is that our two-year old son is learning Swahili and English at the same time and can understand both languages. It’s so easy when you’re two and your brain is already in that language learning mode. πŸ˜‰ I’d much rather he get the opportunity to learn now as a child, so that is also a real benefit of being here now.

Anyone else learning or learned a second (or third) language as an adult? What is/was your experience like?


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. A Collection of Musings
    Jul 05, 2013 @ 14:02:23

    Arabic hasn’t been easy on me, but then again English isn’t easy on those around me


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