Thursday, November 3, 2011

Gúndatiwa (We feel happy)

Miss Cas
One of the highlights of my week is the evening class in the local Garifuna language. Some of the pronunciations and spellings vary slightly from the Garifuna spoken in Honduras and Guatemala. Our teacher, “Ms. Cas”, hosts the class in her home. She has taught the language to volunteers for a number of years and has been “host mom” for a current volunteer as well as previous volunteers. She is a wonderful and warm person who is justly proud of her culture and eager to share it with her students. In addition to language skills, she shares insight into her beliefs and her experiences with the traditional healer from Hopkins village. Several of her grandchildren also listen in on the classes. Ms. Cas speaks only in Garifuna to them in the home to help them preserve their culture. 

We use the Peace Corps language manual with about 120 pages, a textbook Wani le, which has some Guatemalan spellings, and the People’s Garifuna Dictionary by E. Roy Cayetano (a Dangriga resident) printed in Belize City. One of the other volunteers has made several vocabulary card games that we play for a couple of rounds during class. The grandchildren have an advantage over us, but we are pretty good losers.

I have supplemented my class experience with the inexpensive flashcard software by David McGavern called iFlash. Unfortunately it is written only for the Mac operating system, but decks could probably be exported to Excel for Windows users. The website has a library of flashcard decks that are available for download, and I have uploaded my deck of cards, and I updated it until I exceeded the size limit for uploading. The cards allow attachment of sound files and images to the cards, and I have tried to use my best pronunciation for the cards. Perhaps at some point I can get a native speaker to revise those for me. The deck is up to 1500 words and phrases (13 Mb) and seems to grow at one to two hundred words per week.

The language is a beautiful one. If English is the language of exceptions, then Garifuna would be the language of following the rules. It seems very logical. Even at my early stage of learning I can tell who the speaker is talking about by the first letter of the nouns and verbs.  If it is “N”, then he or she is talking about self (néibuga = I am going and nuguchu = my mother). If it is “B”, then they are speaking about the listener (buban = your house). If it is “L”, the conversation is about a man or masculine subject (lisimisin = his shirt), and “T” is for a woman or feminine subject (tuma = with her). In addition, there are different vocabularies for men and women.

This rule makes personal pronouns easy, and gets rid of some of the ambiguity that makes English difficult in some ways. Another beautiful feature is that it does not translate word for word to English. A single Garifuna word may mean a complex sequence of cause and action, and a single syllable English word may require a sentence to say in Garifuna.  

If you are interested in learning more, we found a website that may shed a little light on the language - The Garifuna Institute.

Cathy here: Steve has had a little more time - and a LOT more motivation - to write this week, but I'll throw in my two cents. I'm wallowing in homesickness right now. I've been following the blog of my friend, Susie. She's a marvelous photographer, with a stunning garden. I keep thinking what I would be doing back home, especially in the garden. 

We are eagerly awaiting our first visitors from the States! Steve's sisters, Nancy and Carol, arrive on Thursday. We are also taking our first vacation from work since we arrived in Belize. Much needed! We plan to be tourists with them, see the Mayan ruins, go to the Cayes and other beach spots, check out other resorts. They are renting a car and we will be fully mobile - you can't imagine how nice that will be :-) But I will also delight them with my cuisine - I hope. They will also be here for Settlement Day on November 19. More about that in a later entry.

My projects are moving along, some more quickly than others. The resource booklet is almost ready for publishing - that's mostly computer work. The girls' workshops have been a big success. I'll try to get photos this weekend. We have an all-day meeting tomorrow with a man from the Ministry of Education. He wants the POWA women to teach adult literacy - a 12-week course - that will PAY. Nice! We'll spend the day planning how that will flow.

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