This afternoon, I spent my time practicing and quizzing myself on Swahili noun classes. Swahili has 7 different noun classes. Each noun class has its own way of saying the words "this, that, these, & those." Therefore, there are 28 different words for "this, that, these, & those" which are regularly used in Swahili!
Over the past 6 weeks, I have been living at River Valley Campsite outside of Iringa, Tanzania. During my time here, my primary focus is to learn Swahili—the language of many people in East Africa. When I arrived at language school, I was a little nervous and apprehensive. I wondered how difficult it would be to learn a new language. I wondered what the teachers would be like and if I would be smart enough to actually learn another language. Because, as I have been to East Africa 3 times previously and I also completed some studying prior to arriving in Tanzania, the first week of class was easy for me. I began learning simple nouns, verbs, and some basic grammar concepts. At the end of the first week, I remember thinking, “This isn’t really THAT hard.” I knew that I still had a great deal to learn, but I thought, if we kept cruising along as we were, it wouldn’t take long to learn the language. With these thoughts, I began to relax a tiny bit.
In the last 5 weeks, my optimistic thought of “This isn’t really THAT hard” has come crashing down on me! I have realized that learning a new language is one of the most difficult things that you can do. It is definitely a full time job. In order to learn Swahili as quickly as possible, I feel like I eat, sleep, and breathe it. I tell myself stories in Swahili. I try really hard to translate the Swahili text messages that I get each day from my cell phone provider. I even narrate my own daily activities out loud! With all this talking to myself, I think the staff at the camp is beginning to wonder about my sanity!
If you can’t tell already, learning a language is also one of the most humbling things that you can do! I am blessed to have very patient and kind teachers who take time to explain, correct, and assist me as I learn Swahili. I know that each day I make MANY mistakes. One of the best lessons I have learned while studying Swahili, is the importance of being able to laugh at yourself when you make a mistake. For example, we were practicing a grammar concept and I was trying to say to my teacher, “I see you” in Swahili. Unfortunately, I accidentally said “I marry you.” It was an easy mistake to make because the difference between these 2 statements is only 1 letter. (I see you= Ninakuona. I marry you= Ninakuoa.) As you can tell, that little “n” is quite an important letter in this statement! Let me tell you, there was a lot of laughter in the classroom that day!
In addition to my wonderful teachers, I am blessed to be in class each day with Rev. Jon Clausing. Pastor Clausing is extremely intelligent and assists me when I am confused with different concepts. He also reminds me to not be so hard on myself—something that I am definitely prone to do. His daily kindness and encouragement are an incredible blessing to me! In addition, Pastor Clausing’s wife, Anita, and their 9 children have become like family to me! I enjoy playing with the children and visiting with Anita. Over the past 6 weeks, we have shared a lot of laughs and encouragement with one another.
I am now about half way through my language training. As I reflect back over the past 6 weeks, one thing is quite obvious—God is good all the time! Daily, He faithfully provides for and encourages me. I am overwhelmed by the blessings He has given me—especially the blessings of excellent teachers, the Clausing family, and the many people who continue to lift me up in prayer. I can only shake my head humbly in amazement of our incredible God. As we say in Swahili, “Mungu ni mwema kila wakati!” which means, “God is good all the time!”