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Learning Azeri

Shortly after arriving here, Rhonda and I recognized that one of the biggest challenges would be the language. Since Azerbaijan was part of the USSR for so many years Russian is still widely spoken. This is especially true among government offices. However, the Azeri language, also referred to as Azerbaijani, is now most prominen. We decided that it would be best (and probably easier) to study Azeri.

Every Monday and Friday morning is our language lesson with our tutor. Azeri uses Latin letters rather than the Cyrillic script, which is quite different. There are nine vowels (and vowel sounds). In English we only have five vowels but they make different sounds depending on what other vowels are in the word. (Read the following words to see what I mean: cough, dough, through). In Azeri every letter in the word is pronounced and so that makes it easier for us to start reading the signs and billboards up all around town.

We record each lesson on the computer so we can review it during the week. I’ve tried to attach our first lesson but I can’t seem to add a sound file. (If you know how to do it please email me) We are still learning a lot of vocabulary. In the first lesson our tutor shows us a picture of a man and another picture of a woman. Then she says, in Azeri, “this is a man”, “this is a woman”. After repeating the word for man and woman and few times she will say to us, (again in Azeri) “point to the man” and “point to the woman”. Then she adds a picture of a boy. Now we have a third word. The fourth word was girl, then child, then baby, finally grandpa and grandma.

At this point, each week works the same way. We review our vocabulary of nouns and some simple action words. Then she teaches us some new vocab. This week is all about fruits and vegetables. Rhonda finds that really helpful when walking down to the market. We aren’t doing a lot of talking yet. Thankfully this program is just encouraging us to listen and recognize words. Every day one of us has a moment when we are out and hear a word we know. It doesn’t matter that we don’t understanding the rest of the conversation, just knowing that one word is enough.

Learning a new language isn’t easy. We don’t expect to be fluent but we would like to be polite and able to engage our neighbours in some basic greetings. For now, I’ll just say ’sog ol’ - goodbye.

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