The Mark of the Jandal

Monday, December 26, 2005

Language Training

The Samoan language is challenging. It only has 14 letters and two special characters one is called a komaliliu and the other a fa'amamafa. The komaliliu is an apostrophe before a vowel as in the word fa'amamafa. The fa'amamafa is a bar that goes over a vowel. So say -a is a with a bar over it. Then a vowel can have four sounds: a, 'a, -a, and '-a. The thing that makes this challenging is that each word seems to have a different meaning depending on which vowel sound that is used. M-al-o means hello while mal-o means hard and m-alo is the word for loin cloth. I'm having a heck of a time distinguishing the vowel sounds when spoken.

They told us a story about a volunteer staying in a village who was having ear problems. The trainers told them to goto their family and ask them to massage or fof-o. He asked the family and things got really quite. They brought him a bottle of coconut oil, closed all of the windows, and went outside. He sat there in a chair for about 15 minutes wondering what was going on. See he ment fof-o, but said fufu which means to masterbate --- a very polite family if you ask me.

The language training program is very good. We spend part of our time here at the hotel and part at the village. Since we have 12 weeks to learn what we can, there are either three or four students per instructor, and the instructors are all Samoan. Our instructors name is Onafia and he is what is referred to as a talking chief --- I'll probably write something separately about the organizational structure when I better understand it. Since we jump back and forth between the village and the hotel and the funds are limited, the teaching materials need to be mobile and inexpensive. The instructors have a folder for each lesson plan with words written on cardboard that they place on a board that has paper clips at regular intervals. They also use large pieces of paper with sounds, words, etc. written on them. These are taped up as needed. The trainers also stay with us either at the hotel or at the village. I've included a picture of Onafia and Brian. It seems like a simple and pragmatic system they have developed, and it's pretty impressive.


  • That story about the guy and his language issues is HILARIOUS!!!

    By Blogger LLG, at 8:42 PM  

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