I’ve been spending my language time recently transcribing audio recordings of Kovol stories that are about 100-200 words long. I started to feel like I was spinning my wheels a bit. I’d take a fresh story, work on it for 1-3 days and then I’d be done and would move on. It felt a bit like I was putting lots of time into writing down these stories, only to nibble on them just a tiny bit before moving on. It’s also a pure comprehension exercise because there’s no way I can speak anything like the fluent Kovol I see in stories.
Moving on to my 15th story in the last few months, I started to wonder if I was doing the right thing. Consulting with our language learning manual, I found out that I’m on the right track. I’m not supposed to be camping on a single story and squeezing every little drop of goodness out of it. It’s better to take the things you’re ready for and then move on, aiming for 2-3 stories a week. Good to know I’m on the right track! It also suggested something that’s become my latest project.
Frequent readers (if there are any!) may remember that about 2 months ago I was working on writing short stories. I sat in the comfort of my home and wrote a few short 100-word stories with the benefit of our dictionary and my notes close at hand. I then got to work correcting them until they read well and compared my story to the same story given by a native speaker.
The comparison helped me get a better handle on Kovol sentence structure, but I didn’t continue doing it because I found that writing and speaking were very different skills. Writing gives you lots of time to conjugate verbs correctly and you try to spice things up by using more complex sentences.
I wasn’t able to speak anything like the kind of stories I could write though. Seeking to correct that I attempted to speak extemporaneously on the subject, but that didn’t go so well. I found that I’d be corrected on my first sentence, breaking my flow and we’d end up speaking in simple clauses with no flow between them.
To my latest project then. I sit in the comfort of my home with my voice recorder, hit record and tell the story. Then it’s editing time to remove any extra long pauses, mistakes where I started over and lots of “ums”.
Then I transcribe myself. Transcribing myself is much easier than transcribing a native Kovol speaker!
The plan of action then is:
- Play the recording to a Kovol person
- Ask them to tell the story in Tok Pisin, so I can check they understood what I said
- Ask them to tell the story themselves in Kovol and grab the recording
- Go through my transcription sentence by sentence and correct my mistakes
- Listen to the recorded version at home and transcribe and compare
- Try again – hopefully with a better version the 2nd time
So far I’m really liking how I get to attempt to express myself in the language without interruption and can go over it afterwards. I did one on making a pot of soup (which I’ve not checked yet) and I’ve already noticed that I’m struggling to remember the proper vocabulary for peeling vegetables. I went with “hogu sannatogom”; I’m looking forward to seeing what I was supposed to use!
The results are both encouraging and disappointing:
- Both stories I’ve checked (building a house and planting a garden) were completely understood, yay!
- I make silly tense mistakes, boo! (tugugam not tugulom idiot!)
- The sentences I use are mostly correct and don’t need correcting, yay!
- I sound like a child, boo!
Listening again to my house-building story I saw it went a bit like this:
“I put the posts, finished. I put the floor, finished. I put the walls, finished…”
Lots of short simple repetitive sentences. I’ve got to group actions in twos or threes in my mind so I can do the Kovol thing of stacking related verbs into a single sentence.
I’m looking forward to doing a story for each of the daily activities I’ve studied over the last year or so. It’s going to be great revision of all that vocabulary and eventually, I should start to be able to speak a little less like a 2-year-old.