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the Georgian Language! ქართული ენა, kartuli ena

ქართული ენა

Oh, dear, oh, dear! The Georgian Language contains 33 letters, most of them recognizable in the English Language. Some sounds, totally unknown to Westerners. Glottal sounds that are somewhat impossible, even for a global chick like me.
The alphabet is beautiful, a work of art!
Somewhat distantly related to some Greek letters, but not really, although the Greek influence has been recognized, it is also close to Basque, the language of another curious land. As a matter of fact, those two civilizations may have some ancient relationship. In the bookstores, they put those dictionaries together...Strange!
Georgian is a poetic language. One example, to be pregnant, or "orsulad" is translated as having "two souls"..

There is no tonic accent, so it may sound a bit flat. This blogger took a long time to figure out that they were not constantly upset with each other, but simply, there was little intonation, and so it just sounded like they were upset. They are not. They are pretty calm people.
There are no UPPER CASE letters in Georgian. Even first names don't start with a capital..the questions marks are identical, commas, etc, too..
What is surprising in the language is that the order in which you put your words doesn't really matter. For example:
"hungry me I am" is perfectly acceptable. "I am hungry" is acceptable too, but the emphasis is on "hungry", so it goes first.
"am" would actually be "to be" so..."hungry me to be" would be how you would put that together.

When I first taught French to Georgians, I just couldn't believe what I was hearing. The sentences they were making in French sounded so strange! It wasn't until months later, when I started learning the language and bought a "go ahead and learn Georgian if you dare..."book, that I understood. They were translating word for word what they were trying to say in Georgian! Needless to say, if it is difficult for Georgians to learn French or English, it is just as difficult to learn Georgian for us!
and is not like Russian...Everybody thinks that, because the population speaks it very fluently(bilingual at birth they all are...). The alphabet is different, so that children learn the minimum of 3 alphabets before the age of 10: the Latin(French, English, Spanish, etc) alphabet, the Georgian alphabet, and the Russian alphabet..Let's institute that in our schools!
It is true, however, that, if Russian was mandatory during the Soviet years, it is no longer required and many teenagers prefer to learn English. Many programs on television are in Russian, such as cartoons, and children are therefore still able to understand it. 

Language is part of the individual. The individual is a representation of the language, and the country. It is only fitting that the Georgians be such a proud people. Their language is direct, to the point, but finite in its ways of describing feelings. They change their verb conjugations in fonction of their feelings. A preposition? Well, you can have prepositions, post-positions, and even the middle, to express a feeling! Those are complicated people! That is a complicated language! However, I heard that out of the many people who have tried, the Anglo-Saxons, or English speakers have actually been the most successful at it. Now, that is reassuring!

March 12th, 2013
I have been taking lessons from our niece, the English teacher, for a few months now, and on Skype..Also bought a very good book, "Beginner's Georgian" by Dodona Kiziria. A very good book, it turns out, if you have already spent a few years trying to speak it, without trying to understand the grammar..That was my case: I know quite a bit of vocabulary, mainly nouns and adjectives, and the verbs were a mystery still. It turns out that after studying on my own in the book, I started to "get" the way to put things together. Needless to say, I am far from speaking it fluently, but now, it is no longer a big mass of sounds, it is starting to make some sense..
So, yeah, the verbs are the toughest I have ever learned. I have a hard time figuring out when to use what, even with all the languages I learned over the years.. I thought Ancient Greek would help, and maybe it helps a bit, but only so far.  I am thankful for having had the pleasure of a good linguistic base in my life, for it chases the fear of adopting a new language. But practicing on a regular basis does seem to help, of course.
Now, if I could just figure out why verb forms change when the direct/indirect objects change, that would be helpful!

March 26th, 2013
I now look forward to my lessons, oddly enough..The company of my dear Maia is bound to have something to do with it, of course.

I realized I didn't post the actual alphabet, so here is a little sample, with maybe even some real words


so much for the keyboard. No wonder I get lost..You must admit, it is very very pretty. If any of you have studied Greek, you will see "some ressemblance", granted...not much, but it does have a little of it. It is normal, as the Georgian alphabet, at least this one, was inspired by it.

ღომი : prononced "romi", with a hard "r". That is the equivalent of polenta in Georgia. A favorite in this family. The only difference is that romi there is white, and is mainly prepared by the Western Georgians.  Good stuff..

გამარჯობა = gamarjoba, or "hello", but literally "May you be victorious!" Love that...

გული = guli, or "heart"

Not so difficult, when you have memorized the letters, eh?
Now, if I could just remember all the cases..and the tenses...and the numbers..Good thing I have the rest of my life, eh?
too pretty..

One of the very famous writer in Georgia is Shota Rustaveli. In Georgian : შოთა რუსთაველი
He lived around 1100-1200 and wrote the epic poem "The Knight in a Panther's skin". It is a story of courtly love, chivalry and ladies in distress.
Rustaveli is also the large artery in the middle of Tbilisi, and most cities in Georgia. Walking Rustaveli is like walking the Champs-Elysees in Paris, although it is surely more expensive in Paris.

July 10th, 2013
The first things I needed to learn in Georgian were the basics. Food stuff! How do you say "beer", for example..Actually, the Georgians, or kartveli, use a lot of Russian words. In this case, it is piva. The Georgian word is ludi, but I have yet to hear it refered as such.

So, here are some of my favorites:

eggplant: badridjan, here prepared "nigosit", which is ...full of walnut, and coriander, and tons of grated garlic.

tomato: pamidori this is from the Italians, pomadoro, or gold apple..
milk: rdzay
yogurt: matsoni
walnut: nigosi
rabbit: kurdreli
bread: puri 
the bread varieties depend on the shape and whether or not they are stuffed, so you will have:
lobiani(with refried beans stuffed in the middle!)


green or red pepper are tsitsaka which really bothered me, since I also love greek tsatsiki...made with yogurt and cucumber, which is kitri in Georgian, by the way... Love tsatsiki with tsitsaka!

So have a wonderful dinner, everyone, which, if you are lucky, is called a supra! That is the most food you have ever had the chance to see at one time. Yeah for supras!!!  Supra is also the word for tablecloth! That is always a good start, right?

September 5th, 2013
After a month in Georgia, and a mountain of conversations around the dinner table, I realized my learning the verbs has increased my speech a minimum of 2-fold. I was able to order my entire dinner yesterday!
Figuring out the verb formation has led to sentences in more than the present tense. I can say what I did yesterday, and my plans for tomorrow, with a disgusting ratio of errors.. Oh, well..

Yesterday, while on tour in the palace of the Chavchavadze princes in Tsinandali, the guide decided to literally attack me with the historical stuff, in Georgian, of course! Always prepared with historical background, I swear I think I understood maybe a good 50%! She spoke of royal European families tied to the princes and their wives, so, 'twas easy.. 

My favorite new words:
sashishi = dangerous. Can be used every second while driving..
sa interesoa! = how interesting!  For when you didn't get what they said...  :)
gabrazebuli = upset. It just sounds cool.
skhvanairi = different. The prononciation is real different too..
itsostkhlé = health. To be used when somebody sneezes. The equivalent of gesundheit!
kmarkhopili = happy. Not to be confused with kartopili, which led me to say I was a ...potato! 

Of course, nothing compares to my version of coffee, nakeliani khava, an unfortunate error that could have brought me cow patty coffee instead of nalekiani khava, Turkish coffee.. They will be repeating that one in the family for generations to come, no doubt..

and the winner is..
shlangi ! That would be... Rubber hose! Just too fun to say!

Lessons are continuing with Maia, for conversation purposes, and with Thea here in France. She is a lovely Georgian woman I met last year. 
Thea teaches me to read and write. In language acquisition, the process goes as follows: listening, speaking, reading, writing, thinking and then, the Golden Ticket : dreaming in Georgian! That is how children learn, and the most logical sequence to follow. Maybe I forgot to mention that I am a language teacher, a linguist, a polyglott, etc. Georgian is putting me through my paces and I do hurt when the lessons are over, especially when they tell me that "ara", it is not correct..

Although I mastered individual letters, I had neglected one step when I studied them on my own, mainly, the way to write them. Do you start with the top of the "a" or the bottom? And yes, I was making the graphism of the letters incorrectly! Thea is fixing that, and so, I am attending my own private 1st grade...
Now, it is easier to write the words, because I have understood the flow. Although the letters do not touch, as in cursive writing, it is easier and faster to write a word if you know where to start the next letter!
Next, reading..since I have, for my own sanity, decided to write the verbs forms in Latin letters, my reading skills are basic, and as slow as molasses. Once again, I feel for the Georgians who come to France and have to learn the grammar with the additional pain of an alphabet unknown to them..
A few new words:
Mshia: I am hungry, although the likelyhood of that nil..
Ra lamazia! : It is so beautiful!
Atami : peach
Gargari : apricot. Not to be confused with gargarisme in French.  😏
Bali : cherry
Avtobus: bus. Many of those "auto" words in English become "avto"
Teleponi: telephone...due to the lack of the letters "f" in Georgian. Check this one out : pilosopia...

Now, the next hurdle: finding a word in the dictionary, since the order of the letters in the alphabet is slightly messed up, in my limited mind..

And this is sausme, or breakfast, complete with blini filled with smetana, a Russian word for sour cream, tonis puri, or bread made in a tonay, and chai, you've guessed it... Tea!
Mikhtvit! (Enjoy!)

It appears that verb conjugation affects the case now..Oh, geez!...
What's your pleasure this morning?
Hang on to your hats on this one:
In the past, the subject of the sentence changes its case from nominative to accusative.
Here is an example"
the girl gives an apple to her sister:
= gogo adzlevs vashls tavis das  = გოგო აძლევს ვაშლს თავიმ დას
the girl gave an apple to her sister 
= gogom mistsa vashli tavis das = გოგომ მისცა ვაშლი თავიმ დას
"gogo" or girl, went to "gogom", which is cute, in itself, but is still the same subject! 
Note how the verb "to give" changes from adzlevs to  mistsa !!  Yes, it is the same verb!
This is when I realize that the road is still very, very long..

Here is a good word: 
tavisupleba : freedom!

September 2014:, yeah, there is no accusative case..So much for my try at using Latin and Greek to explain what is happening..Wrong again!
My word for today: genatsvale...
I have always loved this word, even when I didn't know what it meant. I heard the grandmas say it to their grandchildren..."Oh, genatsvale!", so of course, any normal person, would just assume it meant "dear", or "love", or something like that..
Wrong again!  I did learn recently that it meant "May I take your pain and carry it for you.." or something to that effect.. Since I had been using it with "my.." preceding it, of course, it meant nothing. Still, I think that is an incredible sentence..

And now that I know how to read...(yeah, right..), I practice..
Like I can say: "Maia kalia". Unfortunately, if you say it with the wrong "k", like I am likely to do.., you don't say "Maia is a woman", but "Maia is a cricket", which loses its charm, doesn't it?
I pray that my very soon, upcoming to Georgia finds me mastering the glottal letter, or I am in deep you-know-what...
Here is a fun sign to try to read:

and this one, known all over Georgia and much further, as one of their favorite bottled water:

Well, the conquest continues..
After YEARS of studying Georgian at a distance, we have decided to do this up close and personal. As soon as the house is sold, we are moving to Georgia! I am excited, and completely ready to utter the roll of mistakes that will surely come out of my mouth..
So, let's review..
I have found an incredible program online, and it is free. It has allowed me to go on step further, which means that now, I can read, and I no longer rely on my Latin letters, that, in fact, made the pronounciation of words more difficult. I have learned the sounds!
Here is the link to the Goethe program. You can set it to any language, it is very very cool.
You can also download the files to listen to, which greatly increase your comprehension of ..sounds only, of course. I follow the courses and use the sentences as dictations, which forces my ear to recognize the sound. Anyway, it is working.
Can I say more stuff? Yeah, I suppose. I understand more. I get it a little better. But as far as using it, I need a live body to shoot the language at me to check that out. No live practice makes for a basic speech.
So, in a year, I will hopefully report that I speak without sounding like an idiot. 
It is a good thing that I have great support over there who explain to the new guests that I speak French, Spanish, English fluently, and know Ancient Greek and Latin, understand Italian and I am working on Russian...So, there!!

My new favorite words are:
khmamalma : Laugh!
tchadraki the game of chess
pekhburti: SOCCER!! 
And lemme express my French pride: 
Allez les Bleus!! We won, we won!!  :)

Fall 2018 update:
The Goethe program is awesome! I have made great progress in reading but particularly in listening. Granted, this has never been my forte, being an outspoken person means that I am not a good listener, but this program made me listen for ...sounds.., obviously, and allowed me to train my ear to the language. It is an excellent language acquisition skill and, I am aware, the specialty of children 0 to 2 years of age. When you can't talk, you listen..and learn. Now, I can however take slow dictation in Georgian, and make 1/10th of the mistakes I made before!

The mistakes left are due to my age, unfortunately.  Some sounds just don't have the possibility of attaining my little grey matter. Now, if I had heard those between the ages of 0 and 2, it would be no problem.
Here are the troublemakers..
1. ტ and თ. Both make the sound "t" to me. ტამაზი, თარიელი (Tamazi, Tarieli. Proper nouns)
2. კ  and ქ . Both make the sound "k" to me. კაცი, ქალი (katsi, kali =  man, woman)
3. წ and ც. Both make the sound "ts" to me. წიწიბურა, ცუდად (tsitsibura, tsudad = buckwheat, badly)
4. პ and ფ. Both make the sound "p" to me. პური, ფული (puri, puli = bread, money)
All these have to do with either aspired or glottal sounds, hard or soft sounds, etc. 
I just guess and pretend..for now. 

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