Thursday, December 02, 2010

Back To Learning Ewe

[Belated post]

It did take a while but I have just returned to learning the language through some instructions of an Ewe speaker. I didn't know where we would start but there was a hint of how things might go when my tutor found a blank sheet of paper and started to write out the alphabet in Ewe. Back to the basics was the suggestion.

It almost felt like day one but the ability to hear and talk by myself was a gift. Our first day of language training at the Peace Corps hub site was also the alphabet, but there were seven of us trying to say things in a group and there was no real way to understand if you were hitting the sounds just so or whether your voice was masked by another person's perfect pitch or yet another one's bad form. By myself I get to hear how off my sounds are when comparing to the man's speech right in front of me. The feeling is akin to driving down the road for ten miles and then noticing the left turn signal is still blinking. Just a small mote of embarrassment there.

So back to the letters. I will try my best to write them here but if they do not turn out correctly on the web log then I will just give approximations to them (edit: they did not show up).

This character ( Ð ) is a slightly different sounding 'd' sound. Tough to get the sound right when mixing it with other letters.

Oddly enough, the ( H, h ) character has more of a throat sound but the same huff is in the sound that we are familiar with. The familiar sound of 'h' is in the character ( X, x).

If you say the word 'song' and hear your pronunciation at the end of the word, then you are very close to the 'n' character. As best as you can, really getting the 'ng' out will come close to the right sound, but not quite. That one is not so bad but not so easy either.

For the 'v' you are mouthing what appears to be a 'v' but your teeth don't touch the lower lip, and you use the throat to resonate the sound of it. If we write Ewe in the right form, it looks like Eve and sounds a bit like 'away' without the long 'a' at the beginning.

By far the most sinister to my palate and tongue is 'no-idea-what-symbol-to-place-here' letter. I don't know how to describe it outside of an 'l'-ish sound that has the parts of the mouth all in the wrong place. When the tutor makes the sound I understand what it is supposed to sound like, but there is no amount of contorting that I do that comes close to repeating it.

It was a humbling hour just making sounds but it was fun getting back to studying again. I hope we can continue with the practice and that I can build on the words that I already learned from the prior training. We had a good time to boot, so the evening counts as pretty good in my book. The teacher also has a very good sense of humor and laughs with me. I recall that when several of the teachers were sitting outside watching a sporting event, my eventual tutor leaned over and told me to say something. He then added something else to the end of it and then said, “Say that to him,” pointing to the teacher next to me. I said it to the best of my abilities and that teacher plus my then-instructor burst out laughing.

“What did I say?” I asked while laughing with them as they enjoyed the joke.

“I will slap you,” was what they chuckled. Good times I tell you.

No comments: