It’s really exciting to learn Samburu! Things are starting to take off, as I’m little by little combining different methods to learn. Here’s a summary of what I’m doing now.
Facebook group and Glossika course
More and more users join the Facebook group “Learning Samburu” as well as joining the conversation. Particularly Frank Lekatap Mpeyok and Stephen Lepeenoi have helped translate about 80 sentences so far for the Glossika course.
I’ve also had some conversation in the Glossika discussion Facebook group with Mike Campbell, the founder of Glossika, about the socio-cultural aspects of learning a language. It’s pretty clear that the Glossika sentences are developed for an urban environment, as terms like tennis, taxi driver and swimmers are quite foreign to the socio-cultural context of the Samburu language.
Possibly some of these sentences can be adapted, while still exemplifying the same sentence patterns. Still, I like the Glossika learning method and there’s been some very interesting discussions in the Facebook group about how to express things like age and interests.
Anna Dahlbacka is also of tremendous help and she has offered to correct spelling according to the ortography standard for writing Samburu that she’s working with, as well as back translating the translated sentences to give a better idea of how sentences are constructed in Samburu.
Pronunciation practice á la Olle Kjellin
Inspired by another thread in the Glossika discussion group, I have decided to run a 3-week project (possibly more) to really learn Samburu pronunciation. Lacking other audio recordings, I have cut out some 20 short sentences, 1.7 to 3.2 seconds each, from Bible story recordings that I received from Anna Dahlbacka. I will use Olle Kjellin’s suggestions about accent addition to repeat a new sentence 100 times every day and gradually speak along to learn the correct proncunciation and prosody. And then repeat each sentence another four times, for a total of 500 repetitions of each sentence.
After the first four days it will take about 25-30 minutes per day, which I can spread out over the course of the day when some time slots appear.
Although these recordings are good, it would probably have been even better with recordings of more “everyday” talk. But for learning pronunciation I’m sure these recordings will be just fine.
Learning vocabulary with picture flashcards
Apart from getting Glossika sentences translated and practising pronunciation with Olle Kjellin’s method, I’m also creating vocabulary flashcards according to the method that Gabriel Wyner explains in his book and website Fluent Forever.
To avoid having to translate when communicating the flashcards are created with pictures instead of the English term. The flashcards will then be learnt and reviewed with spaced repetition, using Anki. That is, words appear again just when I’m about to forget them, and those that are easier to remember are not reviewed unnecessarily.
So far I have created flashcards, with images from Google Images, for about 100 words from Gabriel Wyner’s list of 625 basic words. And I have started learning quite a few of them already. The next step is to record audio of these words, as I’d rather learn them with the correct pronunciation than what pops up in my head when I read a word.
As I go through the 625 basic words list, there are quite a few words that are not in Stephen Wagner’s Samburu-English dictionary, that Anna Dahlbacka is basing her dictionary work on. Several of these words can then possibly be added to that dictionary, even if most of them probably are loan words from Swahili or English, as they depict terms foreign to the traditional Samburu society.
Anyway, I’m excited and I’m happy that things are starting to take off, even though the mission seemed doomed by lack of access to learning resources. But starting from what IS available, little by little I can build my own way of learning, and in the process create something that can also be of use for others.