Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Learning Guarani Online

There don't seem to be a whole lot of good resources online to learn Guarani. Recently a colleague sent me a link to, a site that's under development by Stephen. So far so good. I'm hoping this will develop into a useful resource for beginning Guarani learners.

If you want to learn Guarani not just as a linguistic exercise--that is, if you're interested in actually communicating with mother-tongue Paraguayan Guarani speakers--you need to keep a couple of issues in mind:

First, there's a movement to "purify" Guarani by removing as much Spanish vocabulary from it as possible. There is a sense in this movement that Guarani is somehow weakened, corrupted, or made less beautiful by the inclusion of loanwords. Whether that is true or not is a subject for another posting, but suffice it to say that if you want to use a Guarani that actually communicates, you should focus on "Guarani-Jopara," (mixed Guarani,) or Paraguayan Popular Guarani, which does include a lot of Spanish loanwords. The words that academics have either created to reference new concepts or revived from archaic sources will leave most Paraguayan speakers perplexed and instead of promoting relationship will tend to increase distance between you and your listener.

Second, if you are learning Guarani with a Paraguayan Guarani-speaker as a resource, generally speaking he or she will not be confident about writing in Guarani. Paraguayan children now learn to write in Guarani in school but this wasn't always the case. I do not mean to suggest that Paraguayans are illiterate but most adult Paraguayans feel much more confident reading and writing in Spanish than in Guarani, even if Guarani is their first language. Unless your Guarani resource person has studied Guarani, either he/she will be reluctant to tell you how to spell things in Guarani or he/she will spell it in a way that diverges from the accepted orthography.

For this reason you are likely to come across a number of different spellings for the same word, such as: jaé, jhaé, jha'e, or ha'e, (meaning he/she/it,) only the last of which is written in the currently accepted way. (Just look at any map of Paraguay and you'll see a dozen Guarani place names spelled in an orthography based on Spanish that is diferent from the current official orthography!) This can be confusing to the beginner but it's by no means insurmountable. You have to learn to hear the sounds and transcribe what you hear. With practice you'll do this with little difficulty.

If anyone comes across any good online resources for learning Guarani-Jopara, I'd be happy to know about them.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

My students

The people I've helped to learn Guarani are now all over Paraguay doing a variety of different tasks. I thought it would be interesting to link to some of their pages and blogs so that you can see who they are.

My very first student, way back in 1995, when I began writing the Guarani text, was James Arritt. Though he's no longer in Paraguay, Paraguay is still in him, as evidenced by his website offering yerba mate for sale.

When the Guarani-Jopara Institute for Missionaries started up in 2000, the first students were Dan and Christie Reich who now live and work in the town of Yuty, about 140 km from where we live, as the crow flies. The same year we were joined by Lindsay Gilliam who had already been a Peace Corps volunteer in Paraguay so he knew some Guarani. Although he just moved to Loja, Ecuador, Guarani has turned out to be very important for him, because he married Eva, for whom it's a first language! Check out their video on YouTube. That's the first class above: L to R; Andy Bowen, Christie Reich, Dan Reich, Lindsay Gilliam, language helper Irene Ayala.

Subsequent students now working in rural Paraguay include Jeff and Amy McKissick, who operate a mobile medical clinic in the village of San Francisco; Tom and Kelly Stout, who also work in rural Paraguay, though they're currently in the U.S. (check out this exciting project that the McKissicks and the Stouts are involved in!); John Griffin, in Tobati, and Paul and Marla Fields, who direct the work of ABWE in Paraguay. Their daughter, Shellie Silva, studied with us in the same class--she's married to a Guarani speaker. Another ABWE missionary, Laura Fouser, is now located across the border in Campo Grande, Brazil, having learned Spanish, Guarani, and now Portuguese. A short-termer from the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Church named Tonya VanKampen has since married and lives with her husband Kris Dixon in the U.S., though by the looks of their blog they're still very involved in missions!

Other former students who don't seem to have blogs include Dan and Sarah Hough, who live in Caazapá; Gil and Renita Rempel, in Campo 9; Erna Plett and Esther Goertzen, in Caaguazú (the Rempels, Erna, the Goertzens, and the Zachariases are all members of the Evangelical Mennonite Conference); and Steve and Marilyn Haines, who seem to be living in Loma Plata, in the Paraguayan Chaco. Their daughters Rachel and Rebecca studied with us too.

My current class has four students: Greg Cameron (his wife Vonnie studied last year), Travis and Rosey Zacharias, and my wife Lizet. Here's the current class: L to R; Travis, our language helper Norma, Greg, Lizet, and Rosey.

The best I can tell, I've had 28 missionaries study with me since the Guarani institute opened in 2000. I've invested in their lives and now they are investing in the lives of countless others using the resource of Guarani.