Monday, September 22, 2014

Grammar Analysis

Grammar [gram-er] noun 1. A subject that you took in school and either didn't understand or promptly forgot;  2. A necessary evil that you fear, because of 1;
3. Something that fascinates you, because you're a little bit weird and 1 and 2 don't apply to you.

My focus at ETNOS this semester is Análisis Gramatical, which, as you might guess, is the Spanish translation of the title of this post.  I have the responsibility of teaching our 8 students the fundamentals of morphology and syntax during 4 hours per week.

The purpose of the class is to prepare the students for the linguistic phenomena that they will encounter while learning an indigenous language and give them the tools to understand and explain the way it works.

The most challenging thing about this class for me is that, just like you, my students fall into one of two basic categories when it comes to grammar: love it or hate it.  It is a difficult subject and, in many ways, you are either wired for it or you're not.

For example, take this basic homework problem that I gave to the students earlier in the semester, a collection of data from PocomchĂ­ (Guatemala).  Some of you will be able to identify the verb roots and subject and object affixes within 5 minutes or so.  Others will stare at it for 20 seconds, not care, and move on to something else.

We use material prepared by SIL Mexico
Obviously, my students don't have the option of blowing it off.   For those without the wiring, the process of remembering terminology, finding patterns, and diagramming the material is often frustrating.  As the professor, I have to find a balance in the way I present the concepts, so that the students at both extremes keep moving forward without either group getting lost or bored.

Last week we moved past this stage of the linguistic process (morphology) and have transitioned into syntax.  Syntax is even more exciting (sarcasm alert) because it is the analysis of phrases and sentences.  Naturally, this includes sentence diagramming, an activity that some of you may have done in school.  Our method is different than what is normally taught, so it can be applied to any language that may be encountered.

Please pray for the students:
     -for patience with me as an inexperienced professor
     -for understanding and appreciation of the need for a solid understanding of grammar in the language-learning process

Please pray for me:
     -for wisdom as I teach and work to help the students understand difficult concepts

In other news, we are taking a break from normal classes this week to take a trip out to Oromomo, a village of Chimane/Yura people in the jungle northwest of here.   Another staff member and I will be accompanying the students for a week-long adventure starting tomorrow, Tuesday.  Please pray that it will be a good experience for the students and for Kaylee and the girls as they do without me for a week.  Lord willing, I will post a report with photos in about 10 days!