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Current Language Mission – Nahuatl

Fall at the Bruce FarmGreetings, faithful readers! I have returned to my native continent, and I decided just now to take the time to write up a real live blog post. You see, those photos and short posts from Europe did not freely flow from the fount of creativity, but were the result of assigned writing for one of my classes. This did not detract from their quality entirely; some were quite good in my own estimation, but others were a little forced, and would have gone unwritten were they not assigned. For these latter I apologize, but I hope to improve my habits so that I can have time to write down the things that I am truly inspired by.

At this moment I am currently sitting on a bench next to the driveway at our north-central Texas home. When I left Belgium it was cold and damp, but the fall leaves were lovely. When I arrived home, Autumn was still in the process of putting on her garb, and I am glad to report that she is now fully arrayed in her customary splendour. The leaves are turning all sorts of colours, the prickly pears are laden with bright red tunas, and the evening sunsets top it all off in a great show that mankind can never replicate. Meanwhile, I am preparing for my next travel destination: eastern San Luis Potosí, Mexico–which will prove quite a change from northern Europe.

As much as I enjoyed visiting previously unknown locations in Europe, I am very excited about returning to this place that I have already visited on three other occasions. I haven’t been able to return since beginning my university studies, and thus more than two years have passed since I was last there. I have visited other parts of Mexico as well, but the Huasteca Potosina remains my favourite, partially for the mountainous scenery, but mostly because of the languages and cultures that are found there. These people are the original inhabitants of North America, and although most of them are fluent in Spanish, in their homes and also in their worship they use the same languages that their ancestors used before the Europeans arrived. One of these languages, namely Nahuatl, was the tongue of the great Aztec Empire, and it is a language that I have been studying for the past few years.

You might think it an impossible task, but through a course published by the Summer Institute of Linguistics, I have been able to gain a fairly good understanding of the grammar of the language, and I can speak it a little. Unfortunately I have largely neglected it in the past few years—at the university in Tennessee my focus was on studying Greek and maintaining Spanish, and during my time in Europe I was learning as much French as possible. So now, with only a few days left until I go back to Mexko (MESH-ko), as they call it, I am cramming. My experience in Europe has convinced me that it is possible to communicate to a certain extent with a limited knowledge of a language, and since I am going to be among Nahuatl speakers for a week, I want to take full advantage of a rare opportunity. So, I’m drilling myself on basic words, conversational phrases, and the like, and hopefully I can get by in Nahuatl once I get there. The last time I was in the Huasteca, I had just begun learning the language, and the people there were thrilled that I could say Na notokax Benjamín (“My name is Benjamin”), even though that was about all I could say! Now I hope to use the language considerably more.

Now, you may remember that I said I would post updates on my French language mission–well, that obviously didn’t happen, but hopefully sometime when I get back I can find time to at least write a summary of how it all went. In the meantime, I will be enjoying sunny Mexico! ¡Timoitasej!