First working session

I had my first session this morning. It went pretty badly for various fixable and unfixable reaons. It’s clear that she hasn’t been speaking Yan-nhaŋu recently and she’s very rusty. (This sounds accusatory – it’s not, given that people can speak what they like, but the last few times I hadn’t had any ‘lag’ time in getting back into working on Yan-nhaŋu while people remembered it.*) I got to hear the news and we made a plan to go and see ŋamarrkuḻi’s grave this afternoon. We did that and I’m glad we did (we got some flowers for it too) Things got better through the sesison too (another reason why I’m not worried). The wind was terrible and the mic clips are too small to clip onto the cloth of my tape bag. We put one on her shirt and it worked ok. The volume is a bit on the soft side and I had the low-level cut-out on to minimise the wind interference. The spectrograms of such things look a little funny to me, as you’d expect, I guess. But it’s audible.

We started doing some spelling and dictionary work and came across some mistakes in entries I had no reason to believe had anything wrong with them. But we sorted out some other things and I recorded one of those fantastic Arnhem Land conversations where each person is speaking a different language. People were quite happy with the idea of conversation recording this time, just leaving the recorder on when we’re not working.

The learner’s guide didn’t get distributed when it was sent last year, so no one had seen it. I’m assuming it’s still somewhere at the school, so next week’s task is to find it (school’s on holiday this week). On the up-side, people I showed it to were a) very enthusiastic and b) able to point out a few mistakes in it, so I’m happy about that. [Update: it got distributed, but not to the authors!]

Another thing that happened today: I reduced Milingimbi’s cane toad population by 1. I jumped on it by accident when I jumped over the mud ditch outside the guest house going to the phone in the dark. For the record, the cracking sound of full force of foot on toad on concrete is hard to describe.

*Update: This turned out to be true, and fluency wasn’t an issue for any of the subsequent sessions.

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