It was the first week of Samoan. I liked it. I’m obviously still in my honeymoon phase, but I am so happy to learn this. There are so many things about Samoan that are so different from any other language I have tried yet and if you combine that with the fact that my resources are SO much more limited this time, one might think that I would have gotten frustrated rather quickly.
In fact I have learned a lot about Samoan and language learning in general that I though I would like to share with you here:
Old and limited resources are not a problem
The older resources, that are not designed around a language learner whose primary opportunity to learn happens in his 40 minute commute to work, are amazingly useful and only take a little bit of creativity to use them. I have made use of Anki to keep words fresh in my mind, but the biggest thing so far is making use of the “dialogues” I have found in my books.
Many books are like this and mine are no exception. They have an example dialogue at the beginning that shows a “real life” example of how what you are learning that lesson will be used in real life. Many, including me, usually spend little time on these, but I have learned that power of these dialogues. You can take them, memorize them word for word so you can spit them out without thinking. Then here comes the real power. Change them. Re-memorize them again with all the variations that you can think of. Make the dialogue longer, shorter, add phrases you learned in another book, and/or just change the circumstances of where the conversation is happening.
I like this because, if you think about it, so much of what we say comes out by instinct. By doing this, I am creating an instinct of Samoan. Plus it gives me more and more opportunities to practice pronouncing the words, so I feel more and more comfortable with how it comes out of my mouth. Speaking of pronouncing words:
Thai has helped me speak Samoan
Samoan pronunciation of the letter ‘g’ is not that same as the European pronunciation. It is pronounced as an ‘ng’ sound. So a the word for foreigner palagi, is pronounced like pa – lang – i(not pa – lan- gi). doing this ng sound can be hard for English speakers, but luckily I know Thai. In that the have a letter ง which is and ng sound, which is even harder to learn to use because they will put that ng sound at the beginning of words.
Samoan also uses glottal stops, or sounds you stop with your throat and not your lips. So lou and lo’u are totally different words in meaning and sound. The first meshes the two vowel sounds together and sounds more like the word low in English, while the second has a stop after the ‘o’ sound and the does the ‘oo’ sound of the u. A kinda foreign concept in english, but not in Thai.
The last way, interestingly enough, is the fact that learning Thai, which is a tonal language, has helped me with Samoan. In Samoan they distinguish between long vowels and short vowels with a line over the vowel. When listening, there is also an obvious ‘tone’ that is never mentioned, since Samoan is not a tonal language. The long vowels, without fail( so far) all have a tone similar to a tone in Thai that starts at the top of your voice and goes down ( I never learned the names of Tones, never found that useful).
In summary It’s been a fun week. I am doing thing differently now, because I have different resources available to me to learn this completely new language. That said, my experience from the past is still helping me learn things going forward. Wish me luck as I keep going.