So much to learn!

Language learning has it’s own groove and rhythm that you quickly settle into. In the beginning it can be overwhelming and you feel “Where do I start?” but it’s not long before the learning process picks up a momentum of it’s own. On Monday for example some guys were cutting grass and I went and watched (watching for the moment, joining in a bit later – it’s very easy to assume things and miss details if you don’t take the time to stop and watch). Right now we’re working on amassing a foundation of hundreds and hundreds of nouns; if you recognise the items people are talking about in speech your close to being able to track what the conversation is about. I knew the word for grass and knife, so I went a little more detailed and did the names for the parts of a knife.


Language learning is one of the most mentally tiring things I know of, this is now the third foreign language I’m working on so I know what it’s like, but the difference now is that it’s my full-time uninterrupted job. For Dutch and Tok Pisin there were other things to do, spreading the focusing on language out over the day. Here our full time, the sole focus is the Kovol language and so we’re working hard so I can get 8 hours a day of language time in and Gerdine 2-4 hours in between all the demands of being a mother to a toddler.

Greetings and dialects

We’ve spent enough time in Kovol now that daily greetings (and the dialect differences) have started to sink in.
While we weren’t giving our full-time attention to language while we were building houses and settling in, building relationships was a goal and a few phrases here and there go a long way!

We call things like daily greetings ‘practical expressions’ and we just memorize them. Usually, in our language learning style we’re making sure that we understand what we’re saying, learning doesn’t happen by repeating what we hear with no understanding. We make sure we understand what we’re hearing and saying and try work at a level where we’re at ‘understanding plus 1’, which means we’re a little out of our comfort zone and learning, but not overwhelmed.

Software for culture filing

Language learning produces a lot of data. Our team has 6 people full time learning the Kovol language and everyone is investigating language and culture and recording their findings.

So the question is how do we organise all this data? What do we do with the audio recordings, notes, observations, hypotheses and questions we get from each and every language learning session?