Two years. I’ve been officially learning Marshallese for two years. Wow. Warrar! Ekōḷōk! That’s a pretty long time, all things considered. I really can’t believe how fast those months flew by and how much and little I have learnt so far.
I’m learning Kajin Ṃajeḷ because I want to. I’m not doing it because my boss insists, or because my parents are forcing me, or because I paid for the course, or because Marshallese is one of my subjects at school (well, I’m not at school anymore!). I’m doing it for my own pleasure. And I’m not telling you this to brag, but to show you that I could have given up many times along the way.
A lot of people do. They start learning a language and after a while they simply stop – cause the initial zeal has worn off, or they have realized how much time it consumes. I will be honest, I understand those people. Learning a foreign tongue requires dedication, determination, and patience. I might know it better than anyone else does.
It’s awfully hard to learn without a teacher. I am constantly repeating myself, but that’s still my biggest obstacle. You really need to be persistent to achieve any level. Yes, even the simplest sentences can pose a problem and you have to work hard to correct your own mistakes. It’s not all easy-going. There are times when literally everything is against you. And that’s when you need to keep calm and carry on. If you have a teacher, you have an additional source of motivation; but if you don’t, well…you struggle. That’s all I can say.
Now, I may not have a teacher, but I have a wonderful person who is always willing to help me. She has never failed to answer any of my questions, and I know I can count on her during this linguistic journey of mine. I’m greatly indebted to her for the support she’s been giving me. Koṃṃooltata Tina! Koṃṃooltata kōn aṃ jipañ.
So yes, there are challenges, but I think I have made some progress. First of all, I have managed to go through 21 lessons, and it’s not even the end of the year yet! I stick to my “one new grammar topic and one set of vocabulary words every other week” rule, because it’s obviously working for me.
Ever since I started using the Spaced Repetition System, learning vocabulary has become surprisingly easy. I don’t “memorize” new words – I only revise my flashcards. I do it every day, except for the weekends. It’s fun, it’s effective, it’s undemanding. Of course, some words take me longer to master, but generally a few “sessions” are enough for me to commit a word to memory.
Because for the last few months I’ve been so focused on the SRS, I must admit I’ve been slightly neglecting the grammar. I study one new lesson (meaning: chapter; Peter Rudiak-Gould calls them “lessons”) every fortnight and then review it the next week, but somehow I feel that’s not sufficient. That’s why in this upcoming year I’m going to modify my learning schedule a tiny bit. And, as crazy as it might sound, I’m already excited about it!
If you’d like to ask me how well I’ve learnt the things I’ve gone through so far, my answer would be “decently”. I still make mistakes, quite a lot of them actually. Pronunciation is probably my biggest foe, but I also have problems with the proper word order. Whenever I think I have finally made a correct sentence, it turns out that I used a wrong noun, or the adverb isn’t in the right place, or I forgot to add a prefix, etc. What can I do about it? Nothing really. I can only learn. And try. And keep in mind that I will fail again in the future. Because that’s part of the learning process.
The funniest part is, when I started my adventure with Kajin Ṃajeḷ I thought the Marshallese grammar was simple. Well, I’ve changed my mind. Marshallese grammar is not simple. Had I known that at the very beginning, would I have chosen some other language? No, I would not. I’m very happy that two years ago I chose Marshallese.