Written by Dyami Millarson
I am challenging myself to learn Aasters, one of the lesser-known Frisian languages, in approximately one month. I vowed that the duration of this challenge would be from 16 April to 19 May, which means it would end on my birthday tomorrow. There is only one day left now and there are still a few things I urgently want to review today; I am somewhat perfectionistic.
Let me tell about how I studied Aasters this month. I used 3 books to learn Aasters, two of them reading books, one of them a self-study coursebook. Having so few materials, I realised at the beginning of the month this would be hard. However, I always said to myself: Having these materials is better than nothing. I collected two of these books in 2016 during our first-ever visit to the island of Terschelling where Aasters is spoken solely in the East. Since I had such limited reading material for the one-month language challenge, I decided to buy another Aasters reading book in April this year. I ordered it online and it arrived on 21 April. As soon as I received it, I started reading the book and I quite enjoyed it.
Reading went slow at first. However, I can read a lot faster now and my reading comprehension has improved significantly. What method did I use to get at this level in just a month? I analyse a lot whenever I am learning a language: While reading Aasters, I noted important conjunctions, adverbs and verbs. I paid most attention to verbs because these are the core of the sentence, which is a grammatical cliché that has also been oft-repeated in the Latin lessons of the grammar schools I attended in the Netherlands. My focus on the Aasters verb helped me to improve fast.
Moreover, I forced myself to immediately start learning the lists of irregular verbs and I have reviewed them regularly during the course of an entire month. I have a lot of general knowledge about grammar, phonology and etymology, which helped me to quickly understand how the Aasters language works and cultivate a good intuition for this. At first, the Aasters phonology made little sense to me. However, as I studied more syllables, words and sentences, I started getting a clear grasp of what Aasters phonology looks like.
My method has been simple yet traditional: Study vocabulary and grammar. However, I knew this would not be sufficient. I studied scores of sentences meticulously in order to wrap my mind around how the Aasters language works. Studying sentences requires grammatical analysis with a special focus on the verb, which explains my particular interest in learning all the irregular and regular forms of Aasters verbs. Furthermore, I used all of my knowledge of other languages in order to make sense of Aasters vocabulary and grammar.
I practised analytical comparison between words. For my phonological and etymological analysis, I studied Aasters syllables, particularly root syllables or stem vowels. This helped me to compare words effectively. For the rest, I made countless lists of words. I used my analysis of Aasters phonology and etymology to categorise these words. This helped me memorise the words. I tried to make a selection of the most interesting words, and I tried also to get an idea of what are the most important words to know. Meticulous analysis helps me simply things so I can grasp everything.
In the end, I managed to make a mental selection of what is the most important stuff to know and then I could feel a sense of relief in my mind because I had finally managed to simplify everything. At first, I was confronted with an overload of new information. Analysis helps me to narrow everything down and find the essence of what I need to know. Once I had pinned that down, I felt that I had already succesfully mastered the Aasters language and that it would only be a matter of time ere I would become like a native speaker. I am have high aims with language learning and I do not intend to stop learning when this language challenge will have officially ended. Nay, I will keep on learning Aasters! I want to perfect my skills until no one can distinguish me anymore from a native speaker of Aasters.