Do what I say, don’t do what I (don’t) do


Now I’m retired, I can officially claim to be ignorant, but there was a time when I laid a somewhat dubious claim to a field of expertise, namely Second Language Acquisition, and more specifically within that, vocabulary learning. I would eagerly give my students a foolproof method of learning new words. Simplifying somewhat, you write them on a slip of paper with the translation, and preferably a context sentence, on the other side. Test yourself regularly, putting the words you don’t know into a pile for testing again a little later. Every so often, test all the words to make sure you haven’t forgotten the ones you know.

This method works. It’s backed up by a body of research, and now there are apps that enable you to do it on your phone, tablet and bathroom mirror. So naturally, when I set out to learn Shimaoré, I did exactly that. Well, the first part anyway, cutting up bits of paper and writing the words. Unfortunately, I then failed to look at them. Research has also shown that doing the first part without the second is roughly as effective as putting clothes into a washing machine and then not switching it on.

The languages of the four islands of Comoros (assuming Mayotte to be one of them, which it was until recently) are all different but mutually comprehensible to a fair extent. The language of Anjouan, the closest island to Mayotte, is Shindzuani. Given my progress in Shimaoré, I think it unlikely that I’ll understand anything in Anjouan, but we’re going there anyway for a long weekend – so no more blog till Tuesday. So kwaheri (goodbye) till then, and have a great weekend!  🙂

5 thoughts on “Do what I say, don’t do what I (don’t) do

  1. Indeed I did and do the your system when learning a language!!!! I read English fairly well, though sometimes I find words or sentences I have to look for their meaning, however English is spoken throughout the world… but the ones spoken in the islands you are living must be an ardorous task!!!!! kwaheri.. see you later!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, the desire to learn a language depends a lot on how useful you think it’s going to be – I must admit that once I return to the Metropole, I don’t think I’ll be speaking Shimaoré much. Though you never know – there are a lot of Mahorais in Marseille.


  2. I found that while I was a total washout in learning languages in a classroom, book, instructor, language on tapes …all manner of presented methods…when I am actually in the location of the place where the language is spoken, hearing and watching the people live their lives in their native language, and having to communicate in order to negotiate my way through the day…well I am able to pick up the vocabulary. Perhaps not quickly fluent…but steadily able to learn to understand and interact. I believe it is because all of my senses are engaged..a total submersion kind of learning.

    Interesting post. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Absolutely – there’s no better way than being immersed in the language and the culture. Which means that school is actually a very difficult place to learn a language, unless the teacher is brilliant!

      Liked by 1 person

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