Archives for category: Languages

Just got back from Tanguieta (Benin) where I was staying with my good friends Carl and Ursula,  and researching the best way of writing contour tones in Nateni with Esaïe, one of the Bible translators. After 25 years work, the New Testament is now complete and will be dedicated later this year. Spot the African grey parrot in the background.20180125_162214.jpg


Wikipedia 1000 articles
Celebrations! Today we’ve reached the target we set almost exactly three years ago. The Kabiye Wikipedia now has over 1000 articles in it. Recent additions include Stephen Spielberg, Tornado, Proton, Brain, Neptune, Gupta dynasty. Kabiye Wikipedia has also recently been approved for transfer from the Incubator to the real Wikipedia platform, but please would we translate 100 more interface messages first…

Omniglot is a treasure trove. It’s an encyclopedia of writing systems and languages. You can use it to learn about languages, to learn alphabets and other writing systems, and to learn phrases in many languages. There is also advice on how to learn languages.

End of week 11 and the end is in sight. This week we recorded 22 volunteers reading their language using two different spelling systems, then scored the results syllable by syllable.

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End of week ten, and the training phase is over. Altogether we’ve trained 68 volunteers in four different versions of the orthography.

The daily visit to the pool is paying off in more ways than one. Yesterday I dived in and found a 5000 cfa note (£6.50) on the bottom.

End of week 9. Yesterday morning we recorded 13 people reading versions three and four of the orthography. Then I slept for the entire afternoon. This research project is a marathon!

End of week 8. We’re at that point in the marathon when it already feels like we’ve been here for ever, but still have a long way to go. Only swam twice this week, by Wednesday the water was lurid green.

End of week 7. I’m amazed at Emmanuel and Josephine’s ability to juggle four different ways of spelling this language. This week’s training, timetabled to take five days, was over in one and a half, so we’re taking the day off today. That’ll make it easier to fit in 90 lengths of the pool.


Odile learning how to read her own language for the first time.

It’s interesting to note how neighbours and friends respond to my mistakes when I speak Kabiye.
Some have got used to them and filter them out.
Another used to correct them but has long-since given up.
Others simply aren’t interested enough to be bothered.
Then there’s Mauril. No-one else in the village has his degree of language awareness. Often, in a group, he’ll sit beside me discretely correcting me. He’ll not only point out the mistake, but also explain why I made it. He’ll patiently model the correct version as many times as I need it. He’ll provide a clear, simple summary when I’ve lost the thread of the conversation.
Every language learner needs a Mauril.