Month: August 2015

More Strides in Learning Georgian : Principles and actions for learning any language in six months

August is a month where I have very little teaching, it would be good to invest my time learning Georgian rather than wasting my time playing Pool on Facebook, or other such time killing activities. Most of my Pool opponents are Turkish, so I have learnt a few choice Turkish swearwords :/ but Turkish is not currently my target language.

Playing Pool on Facebook

Playing Pool on Facebook

Wasted time is worse than wasted money (Paulo Coelho)

Yesterday, having finished watching the Youtube Georgian Language podcasts, I turned my attention to some TedX talks about language learning, I watched four different clips. They were all interesting, the one I think might be the most useful is this one by Chris Lonsdale in Hong Kong.

His clip entitled “How to learn any language in six months” sounds promising. He identifies 5 principles and 7 actions.

5 Principles

  1.  Focus on language content relevant to you.
  2.  Use your language as a tool to communicate from day one.
  3. When you first understand the message you will unconsciously acquire the language. (Looking at body language, expressions and the like is useful here).
  4. Physiological training – if you can’t hear it you won’t understand. This is a problem I have with Georgian, some letters sound the same to me, like “თ” in “თბილისი” (Tbilisi) and “ტ” in “ნატალი” (Natalie), I have been trying since I began learning Georgian to distinguish these sounds.
  5. Psycho-Physiological State… if you are happy and relaxed you learn much better than if you are sad, angry or worried.

 7 Actions

  1. Listen a lot. This is to pick up on the rhythm and cadence of the language.
  2. Focus on getting the meaning first (it doesn’t matter if you don’t understand every single word).
  3. Use patterns you already know (this is easier when learning a language related to your own, Georgian has little in common with English).
  4. Focus on the core. The high frequency language. In English the most common word is “the”, in Georgian there is no word for “the”, Georgian doesn’t have articles. In Georgian the most common word is და meaning “and”, I tried finding a list of the most common Georgian words, the first list I came across had “როგორც” meaning “as” at the top of the list, but then I also found they’d listed “as” as the most common word in their list of most common Greek Words and most common Galician words… The second list I found was a list of the most common words inputted to the Georgian pages of Wikipedia. This was more useful but had some interesting anomalies, the second most common word was “რედაკტირება“, the Georgian word for “edit” (a common feature of Wiki pages). Georgian frequency list.
  5. Find a language parent. A child often learns their first language from their mother. A language parent is someone who the learner can work with who tries to understand them but without correcting them and using simple words like a mother would to her child. If any Georgians reading this are interested in being my “language parent”, let me know. (We could do an exchange English for Georgian). Apparently spouses don’t make good language parents. I don’t think my mother-in-law would make a good language parent either!
  6. Copy the face. Look at people speaking the language and see how they move their faces to make the sounds.
  7. Make direct connections. Make images related to the word. The Georgian word for tiger is “ვეფხვი“, this looks like it has four limbs.
    tiger

    tiger

    More ideas: There is no definitive method to learn a language, nor any tool or teacher that will single-handedly deliver you to the holy grail of fluency. Language is written, spoken, read and heard. Each of these areas is considered a core skill within which there are myriad potential inputs; would you restrict yourself to one in your native language? All too often, people enter their weekly language class to converse with their teacher, but then barely have any contact with other native speakers or the media being broadcast in their target language. Try something new every day. Listen to a cheesy song, read a newspaper article from a newspaper whose politics differ from your own, write a story for kids, attempt some improvised theatre and talk to yourself while cooking.

    more tips

 

photography: butterfly (Today was a good day)

I went to Vake Cemetery, in the posh part of Tbilisi,  hoping to find some images for the weekly theme “creepy”, instead I found a beautiful butterfly and took a few shots. ‘Twas a good day and not the least bit creepy. I am no expert on butterflies, looking through google images, I think this maybe a yellow swallowtail butterfly. If any lepidopterists know differently please let me know.

Click on an image to open the gallery. Above is the classic gallery, below is the mesh gallery.

Here is my first attempt at a mesh gallery:

Other interpretations of the theme can be found here: Today Was a Good Day

Georgian Language: Reasons why it is so difficult for me to learn #2. Peculiarities of the verb “have”

  • Some of the most frequent and necessary word forms are not only irregular but also highly counterintuitive, which means you have to learn them early along with the more straightforward parts of the grammar.  For example, the verb ‘to have’ seems like it should be very basic, but you need to know that it takes a dative case subject that agrees with what look like object prefixes, a nominative case object that agree with subject suffixes, and you also need to know whether the possessee is animate or inanimate, because there are two entirely different verbs for ‘have’ that depend on that fact.  Also, these two verbs use different irregular stems in every tense, so they require a lot of memorization.

მყავს I have (animate object). მე მყავს ერთი და. I have a brother.

but

მაქვს  I have (inanimate object) მე მაქვს ერთი სახლი. I have a house.

and transport is an exception…

მანქანა მყავს… I have a car

Thomas Wier (Assistant Professor of Linguistics at the Free University of Tbilisi) remarked on the Georgian language: “The language itself has features that few languages around the world have. Compounding the problem is the fact that the context in which you learn the language (the resources available, and the attitude Georgians take towards foreigners speaking their language), means that foreigners have an uphill struggle even if the language itself were not unusual,”

Georgian Language: Reasons why it is so difficult for me to learn #1. Consonant Clusters

I know, I am lazy and not gifted at learning new languages but six years in Georgia, I should have made better progress, some of the blame might be apportioned to the difficulty of the language. I intend this to be the first of a few posts of observations as to why Georgian is so difficult to learn unless you are a child in Georgia.

I can see only two reasons for wanting to learn Georgian:
1. You want to live there for a long time.

2. You want the challenge of learning a REALLY difficult language (Hungarian, Polish or Cantonese Chinese might have a similar level of difficulty).

Outside Georgia, there isn’t much need for Georgian. I’m planning to stay here for a long while more, maybe for the rest of my life, so I have to get to grips with this tongue twisting tongue.

 #1 Exorbitant consonant clusters, both quantitatively and qualitatively are more complex in Georgian than almost any other language, making simple articulation of the language difficult for non-Georgians.

English is not completely devoid of consonant clusters consider “tchb”, looks foreign or certainly not English but we say it without thinking in “matchbox”, “sks” in asks causes some native English speakers problems.

Georgian takes consonant clusters to another level. The Georgian alphabet has 5 vowels like the English alphabet but 28 consonants.

The capital Tbilisi თბილისი, puts a T in front of a b, something never seen in English at the beginning of a word, Mtskheta ( მცხეთა), a former capital is even worse.

Thanks is “gmadloba”… გმადლობა.

მწვრთნელი ” meaning trainer contains one of the most formidable examples of consonant clusters, the first six letters მწვრთ are all consonants, which would be transliterated into English as seven consonants in succession… “mtsvrtneli.”

The vowels in Georgian are ა ე ი ო უ (equivalent to a, e, i, o and u).

Here is a bilingual text of Little Red Riding Hood…I’d  place the tortoise in front of the Georgian text and the hare before the English text.

Little Red Riding Hood Text

Little Red Riding Hood Text

I’ll say “nakhvamdis” for now.

A Trip to Khevsureti

Meeting up in Rustaveli

Meeting up in Rustaveli

Tbilisi is stiflingly hot in August, it seemed like a good time to head to the cooler mountainous regions of Georgia. This trip was taken over two days with “აბოდიალებულები” (which roughly translates as “the wanderers”) in a 4 x 4 Mitsubishi Delica driven by Dato. We met at the big bicycle sculpture at Rustaveli for an early 7am start.

Mitsubishi Delica...ideal for carrying 9 people on rough tracks

Mitsubishi Delica…ideal for carrying 9 people on rough tracks

Khevsureti is s a historical-ethnographic region in north eastern Georgia, to the north of the region is Chechnya, it is on the slopes of the great Caucasus mountain range. The architecture of Khevsureti is mostly highly fortified and defensive in character,featuring a profusion of towers clinging to the mountainsides,signifying constant vigilance in the face of enemy attack. The Khevsurs were renowned for their warfare with the (mostly Muslim) peoples of the Northern Caucasus including the Chechens, the Kists  and the many peoples of Dagestan.

Khevsureti

Khevsureti

Our first cultural stop en route is at Korsha to visit the Khevsureti Ethnographic Museum.

Khevsureti Ethnographical Museum

Khevsureti Ethnographical Museum

The museum holds two rooms of dusty artefacts, old musical instruments, Georgian costume, and some paintings, including a painting of Shatili which is where we were heading.

A picture of Shatili, where we are heading.

A picture of Shatili, where we are heading.

How do I look?

How do I look?

After the museum we went to Bear’s Cross, a high mountain pass, where we met some intrepid Polish cyclists from Wroclaw, who had managed to get a lift to the top of the mountain pass on a Kamaz truck.

Polish cyclist and Maka

Polish cyclist and Maka

Then we headed on to the Weeping Mountain.

Weeping Mountain

Weeping Mountain

group photo under the weeping mountain

group photo under the weeping mountain

Natural Minibus wash

Natural Minibus wash

The landscape of Khevsureti is breathtaking, mountains, rivers, flowers….

Khevsureti

Khevsureti

Mutso, almost completely abandoned more than a century ago, is a home to approximately 30 medieval fortified dwelling units arranged on vertical terraces above the Mutso-Ardoti gorge, four combat towers and ruins of several old structures and buildings. Difficult to access, the village retains original architecture, and is a popular destination for tourists and mountain trekkers. Listed, however, among the most endangered historic monuments of Georgia, a project of the rehabilitation of Mutso has been developed since 2004. We had the privilege of seeing workers restoring the towers using traditional materials. Our walk up to Mutso was preparation for our long walk on Sunday.

Walking up to Mutso

Walking up to Mutso

On the way up there were some creepy Anatori Crypts, medieval communal tombs with human bones still visible.

Anatori Crypts, medieval communal tombs with human bones still visible.

Anatori Crypts, medieval communal tombs with human bones still visible.

In times of plague infected villagers would voluntarily enter these tombs and wait for death.

Anatori Crypts, medieval communal tombs with human bones still visible.

Anatori Crypts, medieval communal tombs with human bones still visible.

Workers restoring Mutso

Workers restoring Mutso

After Mutso we had a look at Ardoti and got a bit lost, luckily Dato drove back to pick us up and take us to our guest house in Shatili. Before sleeping, we ate our ritual supra (Georgian feast), the Khinkhali was a little disappointing, but as with Georgian supras, we had far too much to eat.

Supra with Khinkhali in the guest house

Supra with Khinkhali in the guest house

The second day of our trip comprised of a morning wandering about Shatili and an afternoon, were we walked and walked for hours to reach a couple of lakes.

Full Georgian Breakfast means Khachapuri, a sort of cheese bread.

Shatili, I think of as a Georgian Macchu Picchu, not that I have ever visited Peru, and it may not be the best comparison. A partially abandonned city set in the mountains. Shatili’s old town, built between the 7th and 13th centuries, is a unique agglomeration of tall koshkebi (towers) clinging together on a rocky outcrop to form a single fortress-like whole.

Khachapuri

Khachapuri

Shatili : A Georgian Macchu Picchu?

Shatili : A Georgian Macchu Picchu?

The houses were abandonned between the sixties and the eighties.

Steps are good for group photos

Steps are good for group photos: say “Sulguni” (Georgian cheese)

Shatili from below.

Shatili from below.

After Shatili it was back in the  Delica headed for Lake Abudelauri and a very long walk.

Taking in some calories for the long walk ahead.

Taking in some calories for the long walk ahead.

From the village of Roshka to the first lake of the Abudelauri lakes (the green one) it took us three hours of uphill walking in hot sun, quite a challenge. I covered up as much as I could not wishing to get sunburnt, the strong Georgian sun had caught me out in previous summers.

covered up against strong Georgian sun

covered up against strong Georgian sun

Abudelauri Lake (green)

Abudelauri Lake (green)

taking a breather en route

taking a breather en route

The green lake was a little disappointing, the blue lake was very blue and the white lake we didn’t visit as it would mean a further one and a half hour walk.

Abudelauri Lake (Blue)

Abudelauri Lake (Blue)

We met our friend Damian and his hiking buddies at the lake, it can seem a small world at times. Our walking took from 1.30 pm to 8pm, that is a lot of walking for someone like me used to sitting at a computer, my legs are feeling the journey today (Monday). It was a good trip, but quite tiring. Khevsureti is magnificent.

Maka and Maia take a break on the walk back.

Maka and Maia take a break on the walk back.