I really enjoyed the Beginner’s Georgian course that ran from Monday to Saturday, so I’d encourage anyone with a bit of free time after the conference to have look at the recordings and lesson notes that are now available in Saturn.
@Ekaterine is a great ambassador for her country and her language and had planned the lessons really well, getting through a prodigious amount of material in just six 1-hour sessions while making sure we all got chances to practice what she was teaching. If you watch the recordings, try to beat us to the answers to her questions, with or without using the pause button!
The course was challenging, and when doing it ‘live’, at times borderline terrifying - I’m exaggerating, obviously - (“ახლა სტივენ, how would you express this noun in the ergative case?” - cue instant brain freeze - but it was really beneficial to be put on the spot like that) and most of all, fascinating and fun.
I had never looked into Georgian before and was only vaguely aware of how different it was (e.g. I knew that the word for father is pronounced mama, even though in script mama = მამა, which looks a bit like dada!) - it turns out that it is in a language family of its own (like Basque, for example) along with a few much smaller languages from the southern Caucasus.
Lesson 1 covered the alphabet - it looks a bit harder than Cyrillic, in the sense that many letters seem to share very similar shapes - especially the ones that look like various ways of writing the number 3. I found myself wishing that @JudithMeyer had produced a Script Hacking book for Georgian (she has concentrated on the biggest non-Roman alphabet languages instead, which is perfectly sensible, so I’ll let her off!) and that I’d gone through it before the course started. However, if you follow the course at your own pace using the recordings, you can give yourself more time to get used to it before moving on to the next lesson.
Lesson 2 seemed relatively manageable (my still very incomplete mastery of the alphabet aside) and I got the initial impression that Georgian was like the Slavic languages (case endings, etc) but a bit less complex - oh silly me!
In the following two lessons, while the numbers were a bit tricky (base 20 from the outset rather than just from 60 as in French), the basic pronouns, some common verbs, basic vocabulary, etc, all seemed reasonable even if very unfamiliar.
Then we got to lesson 5, and suddenly Georgian verbs got a little out of hand. Wow! In some ways, constructing Georgian phrases by inserting little marker syllables into the verb in order to use a single word to convey what would require a whole phrase in most languages is a really cool idea (I’ve since seen it described as polysynthetic verb morphology, though that may not be the right term) but it must take some getting used to if you don’t grow up with it. Suddenly it felt less like a crash course and more like a ‘crash-and-burn’ course but with Ekaterine’s help, it started to make some sense by the end.
In the final lesson, we went through noun cases - like everything else, these would need much more time to master, but we saw enough to get a good idea of how Georgian works. Indeed, the whole course was great for anyone considering learning it seriously at some point in the future, and for those of us to whom linguistics and learning about new language families and their quirks is an endless source of fascination.
At the end of the course, we had to construct a short story about ourselves using words and constructs we had learnt in the course and then tell it to the class, and we each managed 50-100 words. I found it fun trying to work in some plurals, some of the different verb forms we had learnt, and especially some of the quirks - e.g. in the Georgian for “A loves B”, B is the subject and A the object, though I’ve since realised that happens in other languages too, e.g. in French, “I miss you” is “tu me manques”. After saying the obvious things at the start of our stories, we all took a slightly different approach, which suggests we had actually learnt enough to come up with considerably longer stories - a decent outcome after 6 hours of instruction in a complex and completely unfamiliar language!
Anyway, if this has whetted your appetite and/or you like a challenge, do have a look at the recordings. The lesson notes are great too, particularly for lesson 2 onwards. For me, the course justified the full cost of attending the conference on its own. So yes, @polyglotconference, I will be off to Uranus to top up my donation, though hopefully that won’t be quite as painful as it sounds!
ახლა მე მიყვარს ქართული ენა, ეკატერინე, გმადლობთ!