Reflections on two weeks of Tamil

As I write this, but likely not as you read it, it’s been one week since I started taking Tamil lessons. They’re twice a week for about an hour, theoretically supplemented by about six hours of individual study per week.

I have no idea what’s going on.

The only other student in the class is a heritage speaker: he doesn’t know everything and speaks rather informally, but has a good accent and has a lot of cultural grounding that I just don’t (the other day he recited a proverb from memory instead of stumbling through reading it, which is a feat I can’t even accomplish at this point). This means that the class has to be pitched above my level so that we both feel at least somewhat engaged. This also means that I’m totally lost.

When I started learning Thai, we were speaking right away and we started learning to write almost right away as well. That said, we learned to write a few letters at a time and slowly built up to the whole alphabet over the course of many, many weeks. In Tamil class? I’m supposed to know the whole alphabet by now. Spoiler alert: I definitely don’t.

Because I’m supposed to be able to sound out words already, I’ve been focusing all my energy on learning the letters and not a lot of energy on building vocabulary, let alone complete sentences. This was made very clear last class, when we had to translate some sentences from English to Tamil. Grammar, what is that?

My teacher is traveling for the next two weeks, meaning that I have two weeks to catch up on everything as well as teach myself how to tell time and dates.

…Wish me luck?

September Language Goals

First of all, big news: I got a job! I’m going to be in charge of South and Southeast Asia at an academic library, which means I need to get up to speed with all things South Asia. And you know what that means: new languages to learn! To start off, I’m going to be taking a course in Tamil because that can cross over to Southeast Asia, at least a little bit.

Here are my goals for this month:

  • Keep up with all my Tamil work and get back into using flashcards to supplement course work.
  • Read something in Indonesian at least once a week. I have so many things to read in Indonesian but then I get distracted by all the things in English that I also have to read.
  • Write something in a foreign language every day. Currently, I plan to make a rotating schedule of all the languages I should be practicing and go through that every day.
  • Figure out a sustainable way to study Thai and Javanese, probably devoting one evening a week to each.
  • Figure out what else I have time for: more Jawi? Adding Hokkien? Lots of options here, but I need to figure out my schedule first.

Find more about the Clear the List challenge here.