When I started learning Marshallese, a lot of people told me I would surely quit after a few months. Well, guess what, I didn’t quit after a few months. What is more, I am still learning the language, and I have no intent to stop. Having said that, let me now tell you what I have managed to achieve in the past eleven months.
Quite honestly, I haven’t achieved much. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve learnt some new things, but I feel like I’m stuck, if you will. I am obviously making progress – I know and understand more and more, but there is something … something … something I can’t really name. Or can I?
This year has been the hardest year of my Marshallese adventure so far. And it has nothing to do with the fact that I have also started learning Hawaiian. Sure, when you are learning two foreign tongues at once, you cannot devote as much time to one language as you otherwise would – it is simply not possible (if you are able to do it, please tell me your secret!). But the problem lies elsewhere.
I took up kajin Ṃajeḷ in January 2017. We all know that beginnings are always easy. You’re learning the “hellos” and “goodbyes”, and you are ecstatic when you are able to say “My name is…”. Forming your first sentence – even the simplest one – makes you feel like a champion. You are pumped, motivated, eager to keep going. After all, you have potential – you’ve just made that freaking sentence! Come next year, and you are a bit less confident. You no longer believe in yourself as much as you used to. But you still don’t give up. And then another twelve months pass by, and you realize it is going to be difficult. At this point you have two options: you can stop learning, or you can continue your journey. The latter is what I choose – every single day.
So yes, it has not been a walk in the park lately. It’s not that I don’t understand the grammar, I do; only I have trouble putting all the rules into practice. Whenever I try to make a sentence, it turns out it is not correct. Why? I have no idea. I follow the rules, so it should be ok, right? But somehow it is not. Naturally, sometimes I succeed in my endeavours, however more often than not I fail. You may think I’ve probably had enough. Well, you couldn’t be farthest from the truth. In spite of everything, I want to learn – nay, master – kajin Ṃajeḷ.
Because now I am also learning Hawaiian, I had to introduce some changes to my studying routine. In May I decided I would learn a new lesson (with a new grammar topic) every month instead of every other week. It’s a much slower pace, but I want to make sure I will have a chance to really memorize the material. Especially that the things I am currently learning are not exactly a piece of cake. It takes me a little bit longer to digest them. And of course, I cannot forget about all the lessons I have already learnt. That is why I pay extra attention to revisions. I revise religiously! I am aware that if you don’t use a language on a daily basis, it will – sooner or later – fly out of your head. I don’t use Marshallese (unfortunately, I have no opportunities), so the only way for me to remember the vocabulary and grammar rules is to “come back to the past”.
I regret terribly that there are no exercises in Peter Rudiak-Gould’s textbook. If there were, I would be able to at least test my knowledge, which is extremely important when learning a language without a teacher. But well, that’s something I can’t change, so I have to keep doing what I’m doing and hope for the best.
Luckily for me, there are some wonderful people who have been helping me immensely since the very beginning of my journey. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be where I am now. I will be forever grateful for everything they have done for me. And hopefully one day I will be able to thank them in person – speaking kajin Ṃajeḷ of course!