“Rachel,” *yawn* “what does [ʔukʰˈʃoːd͡ʒʌned] mean?”
“Um, it means ‘mountain goat’…why do you ask?”
“That word is stuck in my head….it just keeps replaying over and over.”
This was probably the first time (but definitely not the last!) that one of us (namely Josiah) had woken up with Cherokee words stuck in our head. Instead of re-solving linguistic problems from last night’s homework in our sleep (like we did when we studied linguistics back at the training center, see “a day in the life of a linguini”), here in Oklahoma we have random Cherokee words going through our brains — late at night, first thing in the morning, throughout the day, and even in our sleep. We’re only down here in Oklahoma studying Cherokee for 7 weeks total (and we only have one week left!), but we thought we’d give you a quick glimpse of what one of our days is like:
6:00am Roll out of bed and go take a quick walk around the campground where we’re staying. The walk helps us wake up and get our blood pumping, and it also gives us a chance to talk and pray together before the day gets rolling. After that, we take showers and make (and eat!) breakfast, then spend time with God.
8:20 Leave for our Cherokee language session. It’s a 35-40 min drive to our language helper’s house, so we get plenty of time to pray or listen to the Bible during our travel time.
9:00-11:00am We get to study Cherokee with our language helper, Lorene. We ask her for all sorts of different words (nouns, verbs, etc), write down each word phonetically, and then take our data back to the camp and try to figure out how to convert the sounds of the language into an alphabet, as well as how all the pieces of the grammar fit together.
12:00pm After driving back to camp, we eat lunch with the other linguistic students and then take turns cleaning up lunch afterwards.
1:00-5:30pm In the afternoons, we get to work on figuring out the Cherokee language. Yes, we know, Sequoyah already did that :), we’re just practicing our linguistics skills so that one day when we’re faced with an unwritten language in Papua New Guinea, we’ll already have the practice of taking a difficult language and working from scratch to come up with an alphabet and figure out the grammatical structure of that language. So, we spend a lot of time making charts to show the order of words in a phrase/clause, and we get to build charts of all the sounds in the language, make lists of words with similar sounds so we can compare them and make sure we wrote the sounds correctly, and a whole bunch of other things that are hard to explain. 🙂
5:30pm means supper time! The husband of one of the linguistic students here has cooked in a commercial kitchen before, so he offered to be in charge of the meals. The rest of us take turns helping him make the food to feed all 14 adults plus children. Then we all help wash dishes, wipe tables, put away food, etc, afterwards.
In the evenings, we have team meetings or work on Cherokee some more. Sometimes we get a chance to go check email, play volleyball, or watch a movie to take a break from studying. This past Friday, we got to take a break and go watch a high school football game! It was a fun event for us, especially because Rachel had never been to a football game before. Another night last week, we went to the nearby state park to watch the sunset on the lake. It was beautiful!