Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Learning How To Speak Samoan

Language training is intensive. Over 160 classroom hours are scheduled with homework almost every night and living in the village with a Samoan family is also primarily for language. For the sixteen Peace Corps Trainees (PCTs), there are four full time Peace Corps native language trainers. PCTs are broken into smaller groups depending on their progression. These trainers rotate between these groups every two weeks. PCTs are given numerous assessments throughout the three month training process and can move from to another group if deemed necessary. The final test is given by people who have not been involved in the training or Peace Corps. You must have an 80% competency rating at the middle-low level to pass.

The language itself is very nice to the ear, much like listening to an Hawaiian song. There are a few sounds which are different from English, and the Samoan alphabet has about eight fewer letters. Of course, listening to a pleasant song and then trying to sing it can be a challenge.

We spend most of our free time studying the language. Some of the college kids are quick to pick it up and relish demonstrating their learning talents. Mary and I fall into the vast majority who sit in fear during language lessons.

Since English is taught in high school, many people do have at least some knowledge of it. It is spoken more frequently in Apia where we are and expect fewer to know it when we finally go out to our village. Many of the Peace Corps Volunteers who are in Apia, hardly ever speak Samoan, except for general greetings, etc. Like most places in the world, people would rather try out their English, than their native tongue.

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