It’s Gujarat Day and I had a chance to spend some time learning the language. I can’t say I’ve made much progress since February, though. Learning Gujarati is going slowly. The only real advantage I see to the difficulty I’m having is that it’s giving me a really great opportunity to think about what sort of materials and techniques would be useful for true beginners.
The main issue, other than that I’m just really busy speaking and teaching in English, is that the phonology and script are slowing me down a lot. This is my first attempt to use a language whose script is totally different and, not having a great ear for the complex phonology, I really need the script to reinforce what I’m hearing, but I’ve not found very good sources that can tie those two together for me. It’s possible that the resources I need actually may not exist. One source I did find indicates that Gujarati is known as a language that does not have a lot of published systematic study. Still, I’m trying….
One thing that would really help with learning Gujarati is a clear delineation of the script along with the IPA and audio of each sound linked to a frequently used word using that sound.
I’ve not found any one source linking script, IPA, audio, and words. Much that is printed in Gujarati is poorly printed or too small to make reading the script easy for a learner. Much of the explanation of words and their pronunciation uses Romanization that is neither accurate nor consistent. It’s a challenge for sure. If anyone knows of better resources, by all means, get in touch.
I have a couple of sources that give English words and their pronunciation in Gujarati script. These are designed to help children learn words in English. They give the translation of the word in Gujarati but, unfortunately, don’t tell the Gujarati learner (me) how to pronounce the word in Gujarati. A resource that did would be awesome.
Gujarati script is an abugida system which means it’s better, I think, to learn the syllable groups rather than individual letters. I’m trying to work out, in my nonexistent spare time, a way to create some sort of learning materials based on a set of cards that display syllable groups. The holdup is that I haven’t found a good source of short words that can be made with the basic syllable groups. One badly printed book lists a few single syllable and two syllable words, but more would be really helpful.
Ideally, a native speaker could help a learner create games and many words with these syllable cards, but, certainly, either a tutor or a good list is needed.
Another thing I’m missing is the simple abundance of bilingual children’s books that I found very helpful when learning Spanish. While I’ve encountered a number of children’s stories, they are still much too difficult for me to understand. Anything super simple is, again, designed to teach English rather than Gujarati. Or they are designed for native speaking children who are learning the script at age 5-6.
As in English, materials created to help native speaking children learn to read are not helpful for learners who do not begin with an aural vocabulary.
One last idea for materials would be a good list of minimal pairs that would teach a set of words that use the sounds that are similar to the ones in English first, then systematically introduce pair words that would help an English speaker hear and pronounce the more difficult phonemes. If this could be done with common vocabulary, it would be incredibly useful. So far, I’ve found only a few pairs in Hindi and Gujarati in a couple of academic articles. If anyone would like to develop such a list or knows of an existing one, get in touch.