On Sunday afternoon I left the house, because that is the easiest way for me to concentrate: stuffed a bag full of notebooks and pens, and headed to the car.
My favorite places to work are coffee shops that serve food. Restaurants want to turn over the table; ordinary coffee shops can leave you stuck with nothing but a croissant should you require sustenance. What’s perfect is a place where I can spread my books over the table, drink coffee and work for a while, then wander up to the counter and order soup and a half sandwich, then stay drinking pots of herbal tea and scritching in my notebooks until I am good and ready to leave.
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I was muttering frustratedly to myself when the server brought me my grilled cheese and vegan butternut-squash soup and set it down in front of the chair opposite, where there was room among my books and papers. She leaned over to remove the little flag with its take-a-number card, glanced down, and said, “Oh! You’re studying Somali! That’s so cool! I know how to say a little bit, we had a workshop at work.”
”I literally just started,” I told her. “I had my second class this week.”
”Where are you taking classes?” I named the local community college. “It’s a continuing ed program,” I said, “not for credit.”
”I heard that you could take it there,” she said. “But it costs money, right?”
“Yes. Not as much as taking it for university credit, though. Six classes were, uh, something like $140.”
“How’s it going?” She had tucked the table flag under her arm.
I put down my pen. “Good, I think! Like I said, I really have only just gotten started. The first class was historical and cultural background information, mostly, and now I’m trying to learn how to pronounce the new consonants.”
"Yes!" she said excitedly. "Some of those are really hard. I know how to say 'my name is' and I had to practice that one with my coworker who speaks Somali. Magacaygu Brittany. She told me to say 'ma-ga' and then" [here she leaned back, lowered her eyelids and gave two thumbs up] "'ayyyyyyy!' Maga-ayy!gu Brittany."
She picked up some mugs from the neighboring table. "Well! Good luck! Have fun!" and bustled back to the kitchen.
I looked down at my paper.
C - Voiced fricative pharyngeal.
Magacaygu. Magacaygu Erin.
Who says there's no voiced fricative pharyngeal in English?
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Do you remember learning to whistle? I barely do, but I've been watching my 8yo do it for a month or so. I showed him how to purse his lips and put his tongue, and he worked until he got the faintest little hint of a whistle when he blew. "Start there, and keep trying," I told him. I've been noticing him walking about the house puffing and working his mouth, the little whistles getting stronger and stronger; he's controlling it better and better as he goes. Now that he's adjusting his lips and tongue and diaphragm in response to the feedback he gets from his own ears, he's improving; but he needed to learn how to make that thin, high near-whistle before he could even start practicing on his own.
I'll have to check with the instructor next class... but perhaps my waitress's channeling of the Fonz will give me a place to start, at least with the letter C.