I spend most of my time each week learning Chuwabo, a language with extremely limited resources and written materials. There are no classrooms, no textbooks, no language schools, no professors of Chuwabo. So how do I actually go about learning such a language?
Thankfully, there are many around the world who have undertaken this task before me and have developed resources for situations like mine. In November I attended a conference to learn about the Growing Participator Approach, a method that combines what goes on in our brains as we learn language with our increased social and cultural participation and our end goal of glorifying God. This has been a wonderful guide as I dive into Chuwabo life.
Fernanda and Eduarda, my Chuwabo helpers
Each day I meet with two Chuwabo ladies. At first we used toys as I learned tons and tons of words and basic actions. We “played” with them as I followed the instructions of my teacher by completing different actions with a variety of animals, foods, objects, locations.
Practicing emotion words and learning prepositions
During the past month I have put away the toys and moved to picture books. My teachers and I walk through each page as I learn new words to describe the setting and plot. Besides encountering new vocabulary, I am also learning how to tell stories and express more complex thoughts. This past week we started telling stories from our own lives. It feels so good to start sharing and be able to understand personal stories! It opens the door to share in each others lives on a deeper level. I have so far to go, but this is a very encouraging milestone!
All throughout this process I am learning more and more about the Chuwabo culture. Just as a little kid grows up and by observing those around him can eventually be a fully functioning “insider” of a culture, so I am gradually able to participate more fully in Chuwabo life.
De-stemming leaves for lunch during a visit to Fernanda’s home
I look forward to sharing more about my journey as I move forward into new areas of language learning!