Reflections upon my 1st week of Georgian study…

I have gotten one week of Georgian study under my belt.  It is pretty clear this language is not going to be a walk in the park (…not that I expected it to be after all!).  Take for example that in Georgian, the word for father is mama, the word for mother is deda and the word for boy is bitchi!

These first few weeks are arguably my favorite part with language learning.  I just love learning how different languages are extracted from random sounds and assembled in such a way that they mean something to people.  I am fascinated how Japanese can do it a certain way which is totally different from Italian which is completely different from Georgian!  Yet for each of those groups, the sounds and sentences have lucid meaning.  I can already tell that Georgian is remarkably different in its grammar and syntax than any other language I have studied; I can see how linguists get so excited over it!

I found a great course that teaches “Survival Georgian”.  It is put out by the Peace Corps and is completely free. ( I just love free knowledge!)  You can find it here for yourself if you are interested :  http://sites.google.com/site/soyouwanttolearnalanguage/georgian

So, I have really just scratched the surface of the very basics of this alien language.  I am through Lesson 5 which means I have mastered such necessities as:

Where are you from? – saidan xarT?

What is your name? – ra gqviaT? / ra gqvia?

My name is…  – …mqvia  (sounds like “mivqueeah”)

Nice to meet you –  sasiamovnoa

and the most important phrase in any language …

Excuse me, where is the toilet/restroom?  –   Bodhishi, sad aris tualeti?

Of course, I can also now say “I am a Peace Corps Volunteer” effortlessly… which does me no good as I’m fairly sure I won’t ever be a Peace Corps Volunteer in Georgia in this lifetime. Oh well.

The lessons are fun because there are also VIDEO lessons that come with the pack. These lessons are led by a Georgian instructor named Keti.

Keti is VERY intense.    Keti does not smile.    Keti looks like she could (and would)  kick the living crap out of me even though I probably outweigh her by 100 pounds.  Keti WILL teach you Georgian … or else!   Despite my being somewhat intimidated by my virtual instructor, video lessons with Keti are quite entertaining.  In a sense I feel like I am transported back to the Cold-War era and am receiving some sort of secret CIA assignment.

”  Say  ‘I am a Peace Corps Volunteer’.”  “SAY IT!!!  …  I will break you ……”

Nevertheless, in the next week or two, I hope to finish the “Peace Corps Survival Georgian” Course.   After that I’ll go back to Book2 and start on the Beginner’s Georgian course.  At that point I may actually have enough under my belt to start finding actual people to speak Georgian with!
(frightening…)
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I may have to start with these guys!
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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:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georgian_language

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!!