Is He Really Learning Georgian?!?

File:3-me georgian alphabet.jpg

Georgian?!? Really?!?

This is crazy, right?!

I was trying to decide on a new language to tackle for HTLAL’s next 6 week challenge in May. I was thinking of learning something totally different than what I’ve attempted in the past.  Something totally “out of the box” so to speak.    I was thinking of something along the lines of Armenian or Georgian.  A language with a different script and completely unrelated to English.

After sampling both of them, I have committed myself to Georgian.

Wha’ wha’ huh?!!?

Why on earth would I want to learn this obscure language of 4 million people halfway around the world from my home?!    Besides, what exactly is Georgian?

Wikipedia defines it as follows:

Georgian (ქართული ენაpronounced [kʰartʰuli ɛna]) is the native language of the Georgians and the official language of Georgia, a country in the Caucasus. Georgian is the primary language of about 4 million people in Georgia itself, and of another 500,000 abroad. It is the literary language for all regional subgroups of the Georgian ethnos, including those who speak other Kartvelian (South Caucasian) languages: SvansMingrelians, and the LazJudaeo-Georgian is spoken by an additional 20,000 in Georgia and 65,000 elsewhere (primarily 60,000 in Israel).

The name Georgian may have come from the Old Persian “gurj” or possibly from the Greek yiorgos “farmer” or possibly from St. George himself. The “Georgian” name for their country is Sakartvelo (land of the Karts) and their language Kartuli ena (the language of the Karts).   It is the most well-known of the Kartvelian Languages; a group of South Caucasian languages which have not been found to be related to any other language family!  Spoken Georgian may have been in existence since pre-Roman times but written Georgian emerged with the conversion of the Georgian rulers to Christianity around the mid-4th century.  Over the following centuries the modern alphabet or Mkhedruli ( მხედრული, meaning “military” ) developed, which is still in use today.  The script is beautiful.  Here is an example:

ყველა ადამიანი იბადება თავისუფალი და თანასწორი თავისი ღირსებითა და უფლებებით. მათ მინიჭებული აქვთ გონება და სინდისი და ერთმანეთის მიმართ უნდა იქცეოდნენ ძმობის სულისკვეთებით.

qvela adamiani ibadeba t’avisup’ali da t’anastsori t’avisi ghirsebit’a da up’lebebit’. mat’ minichebuli ak’vt’ goneba da sindisi da ert’manet’is mimart’ unda ik’ts’eodnen dzmobis suliskvet’ebit’.

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

As Georgian is unrelated to any other language family there are some peculiarities with it.  For example: almost half of the words in Georgian begin with double, triple or (!) quadruple consonants.  There is also a well developed root system (similar to Semitic Languages) which unifies much of the vocabulary.  For example: Kartveli (a Georgian person), Kartuli (the Georgian language) and Sakartvelo (Georgia). There is no distinction between male and female so the word “is/ის” can mean he, she or it!
Georgian surnames can give a clue as to where the person originates.  For example: names ending in –dze (“son”) like Eduard Shevardnadze (Georgian: ედუარდ შევარდნაძე) originate from Western Georgia. names ending in –shvili (“child”) like Mikheil Saakashvili (Georgian: მიხეილ სააკაშვილი) originate from Eastern Georgia.

So why am I learning Georgian? The script, obviously is a huge draw; it is absolutely beautiful. I love it!   I have always wanted to go to Georgia (anyone up for a ski trip?!) and while it doesn’t appear that I will get there anytime soon, it seems that I can live vicariously through the programming on Georgian internet TV. 😉   The learning materials for Georgian seem to be slightly better than the materials for Armenian (which are oddly non-existent!).   Georgian is a really exotic-sounding language.  After all, how many other languages are there that regularly squish 4 consonants together without vowels?   The really cool thing about Georgian, however,  is that there seem to be a handful of language geeks like myself that are absolutely passionate about it!  It is like gaining access to an exclusive, secret club! (with a minimal cover charge!)  It seems like a very, very challenging , but fun language.

Here is my rough plan:
1. learn the alphabet
2. learn the alphabet
3. learn the alphabet
4. One lesson of the free book2 program a day & try to commit to memory
5. The DLI 200 Hour Familiarization Course. I just ordered it from a guy on e-bay. It seems like a good introduction.
6. Beginner’s Georgian. A “teach yourself” style of introductory course. Once I have gotten through this, I’ll attack …

7. Aronson’s book “Reading Georgian”. It seems like this is much more advanced and comprehensive than the DLI intro.

So, 2 days into my foray and believe it or not I have already learned the alphabet!

OK, I can’t write every letter from rote yet but I can recognize them all in written script. You were right TD, it wasn’t that hard!

I’ve learned the personal pronouns and how to conjugate “to be”. .. and of course the words  გამარჯობა/gamarjoba/Hello! and naxvamdis / ნახვამდის/goodbye!

So until next time: naxvamdis / ნახვამდის!!


8 thoughts on “Is He Really Learning Georgian?!?

  1. One of our surgical assistants at work is Georgian. He moved here to Denver because he said the Rockies remind him of the Caucasus Mt’s of home. I think their mountains are much higher and he is being nice. When the surgeons let him choose the music he streams music from home.

  2. Oh that’s great!! I’ll have to get his info from you so I can chat with him once I get past the “hello, how are you?” stage. I will definitely check out the Georgian radio.

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