March 8, 2011 § 4 Comments

“Perfection is achieved,
not when there is nothing more to add,
but when there is nothing left to take away.”
Antoine de Saint-Exupery (1900 – 1944)

Diarmuid has been posting frantically of late, fewer words that say more, as the Tao might soothingly whisper. We witness this in Alan’s minimalism, while Jason sees value in this too, stripping down his blogs to the bare bones. And we can all picture blackboards full of genius hunting out the elegance of E=mc2.

It seems that people are giving up clutter for Lent, and I am wholeheartedly in favour of this.

Shelly’s Goal #20 asks us to share our favourite resources and ideas.

More and more, I incorporate learning my learners’ languages in my lessons. I don’t have fixed classes, instead working with schools who are interested in becoming language gardeners. Just the other week, I gave each teenager an A3 piece of paper on which to map out a language plant in the language of their choosing, in pencil, I implored. Arabic, Dutch, English of course, French, Tigrinya, Urdu all spread out like ivy, and were proudly pronounced when I happened across them.

My inquisitive mind searched for meaning and rules which my little teachers were sometimes able to enlighten me with and which they sometimes weren’t. Their initial brave attempts were often messy, and my questions were the first steps to decluttering. Pencils, you see, can be rubbed out.

I had introduced this activity by teaching them a bit of Swahili, a lingua franca of the east African shores whose heritage stems back five hundred years and mixes local languages with Arabic and Portuguese. I could denude the interactive language plant by clicking words on and off, so that individual sentences stood bold and bright. I invited them to repeat, jumping between

I love Kenya – ninapenda Kenya
I love (the) people – ninapenda watu
I love (the) animals – ninapenda wanyama

The little, faded, patient connective “na” was spotted by one Somali girl who had lived in Holland, and I waited with bated breath as she correctly stated how she loved people and animals.

I clicked on the other little word, “wa”, that means “of”. No need of course for me to ask or elicit or urge, for she stuttered:

ninapenda watu na wanyama wa Kenya

Say it again, I heralded. Stand up. Tell your friends that you love the people and the animals of Kenya. Take a bow. You speak Swahili, and the others wanted the same feeling too. Look how the words bend and twist, how by doing this we can make lots of different sentences with a minimal amount of words. Look at the simplicity of the design. Now it’s your go. Anything you like. Any language. Teach me. Teach each other. Teach yourself, I entreated. I’d probably been reading too much of the Tao. And then we can put them up on the whiteboard for all to see, and that’s exactly what happened, give or take a little bit of elbowing.


§ 4 Responses to Ninapenda

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