February 10, 2007

fresh

Here I was starting to wonder if my job here is becoming a bit stale.

Today was one of those not so exciting days where our main job was to scour the school roll, sorting kids into language groups and organising where, when and how to run our school classes… not really something I need my linguistic skills for, just a long-winded adminstrative task.

But it’s funny how things can just turn around.

Old F has been keen to work with these old Marra ladies (the world’s best Marra speakers) who are usually either at their remote outstation, or in Numbulwar (inaccesible this time of year). But she saw those old ladies here in Ngukurr today. And so at the end of the day, sick of my admin tasks, I went to Old F to see if she wanted to sit down with the two old ladies. And she did – she’s been hanging out to check the Marra materials she makes). So we went off to ask them.

And it was the best ever! The three of them sat for an hour, speaking Marra 80% of the time. I sat there quietly, recording every word. It was so great. I understand a good deal of the conversation, mostly because I knew what they were talking about (because they were going over Marra materials I’d helped produce). But still, it was the first time I’d heard so much Marra and the first time I’d heard Old F speak Marra in conversation. And when I had a go at using some of my basic Marra skills the response was excellent and the old ladies complemented me. Ahhhhhh. Such a good feeling and it was so wonderful to be listening to some of the last speakers of Marra in the world sit around and bust out their language like it was as ordinary as a language with millions of speakers. And for me to follow what was going on!

6 comments:

bulbul said...

Oh man, you have no idea how much I envy you. Digging around in old manuscripts and rare prints or trying to figure out vowel correspondences is cool enough. But it's nowhere as exciting, not to mention important, as what you do.

Wamut said...

aww thanks bulbul,

you know i read your blog with envy bcos you've obviously got a great brain for languages and i know nothing about slovakian or anything (much) about where you come from, and i'm also envious bcos you have time to think, whereas I spend half my day driving people to the shop and back and then have to work out how to actually get some work done!

Sophie said...

legendary stuff right there......
-Mami

bulbul said...

wamut,

oh how I wish the "time to think part" were true! The truth is, I have a more-than-full time job only marginally related to actual linguistics, so I too must work out how to get some real work done. Besides, field linguistics and endangered language preservation, that's where the really cool kids are these days :o) And, truth be told, I don't know anything about Australian aboriginal languages and cultures, so I'm really really glad that there people like you. As it has been often said, thank God for the Internet :o)

bulanjdjan said...

Wamud, the universe is looking after you, gudboi!

David Marjanović said...

The truth is, I have a more-than-full time job only marginally related to actual linguistics, so I too must work out how to get some real work done.

What? How did you then manage to learn one language after the other the way I read one book after the other?!? Full quinquelingual immersion at work?!?

As it has been often said, thank God for the Internet :o)

No, no, no. Retroflex that off your palate. Thank Gore for the Internet! =8-)