Finally the tools are in place to start learning Samburu

I’m finally starting to actually learn now! With a language with no off-the-shelf courses to start learning from, resources have to be collected, adapted and created.

The main development has been with the Glossika course (check out their new website!). Although it has its disadvantages when it comes to adaptation to the socio-cultural environment of a language, the method is a great way to learn the syntax, pronunciation and vocabulary in context, as well as learning grammar without having to learn grammar. However, I’m hoping we will be able to adapt some sentences to better fit with what is actually used in a Samburu-speaking environment.

Speeding up sentence translation

With help from people in the Learning Samburu Facebook group, 163 sentences have been translated. But that’s a slow progress when considering that the three levels of fluency that the course consists of, includes 3,000 sentences altogether. I was therefore very happy when one of the guys from the Learning Samburu group, who is also helping out with the Samburu dictionary, now has offered – at a reasonable fee – to translate directly in the spreadsheet.

Access to computer and decent mobile network are otherwise the two main obstacles for being able to contribute more substantially, even for people with both the will and good skills in the Samburu language. Rather than me posting sentences, more or less accurate in a Samburu context, for translation, I’m hoping that the Learning Samburu Facebook group now instead will be a forum for discussing the language and particularly the socio-cultural aspects of it.

Recording audio

The second thing that has held me back from actively studying more seriously, was access to audio recordings of the translated sentences. My wife has now recorded the first 100 sentences, and if I follow the Glossika GSR method that means 10 days worth of studying.

Making scripts to create sound files

Which leads me to the third issue, to create sound files with both the source language (I decided to use Swedish, rather than English) and the target language, to use for comprehensible input (that is, understanding the Samburu words that I hear, so they make sense). Being the geek I am, I have spent some time creating scripts to create Glossika-style GSR files, according to the same repetition pattern they use in their courses.

As I use Windows, I have created a batch script that creates a sound file (using ffmpeg) for each day, with the sentences – in Swedish (as, I have purchased the Swedish Glossika course) and Samburu – with Glossika’s particular repetition pattern. From day 5 and on, that means a sound file of about 15 minutes, repeating each sentence for a total of 18 repetitions of each sentence during five days.

But I think it’s good to introduce each new batch of sentences in a way where the Samburu version is repeated more often. Inspired by a project by Alexander Giddings, which he has posted in the Glossika discussion group on Facebook (in inspired by Olle Kjellin’s chorus pronunciation method), I have decided to make a script that creates a sound file with the 10 new sentences for each day, first in Swedish and then six times in Samburu. When playing that, I can also slow down the speed (I’m using the app Audipo:Audio Speed Changer for Android), in order for me to fully comprehend what is being said to be able to repeat.

I also use the DropSync app to sync the Dropbox folder where I put the GSR and Intro sound files for each day, with my Android phone.

How will I use this? I will first listen to the 10 new sentences for the day with the “Giddings pattern”. Then I will listen to the day’s SRS sentences. If I get more time, I will do the same for another 10 sentences, for a total of 20 new sentences that day.

Anki flashcards – and what about the Fluent Forever 625 basic words list?

I have previously mentioned that I created picture flashcards for the Anki SRS (Spaced Repetition System). I have created a couple of hundred cards with pictures from Google Images, and begun learning them. But I have realized that vocabulary is very tough to learn without a context, particularly for a language like Samburu, where the words in context might not necessarily be the base words I’m learning.

Therefore I have decided to put that on hold for the time being. However, as I have gone through a 5-day circle of a set of 10 sentences, I am intending to add those sentences to Anki, with Swedish audio on one side and Samburu audio on the other (plus the written Samburu on the back of any card). That way, I can continue to review those sentences, using SRS to help me review only the ones I have difficulties with more often.

I may also add vocabulary as I learn it through the sentences, as I then have a context and can also put the example sentences on the back side of the card.

Additional learning resources

Apart from the self-created Glossika course, I also have the dictionaries, lessons and grammar that Anna Dahlbacka has sent me. I find it quite useful to check particulary the lessons that Stephen Wagner has put together, to get a better grasp of the language and the way it is structured, and thus better understand the sentences. So when I get time, I spend some time looking at those, particularly to help me understand the Glossika sentences  better.

Without such material, simply the Glossika sentences by themselves would certainly need further explanation to make sense.

But now, I am finally ready to really take off!

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