Does anyone here speak Dinka?
The husband and I don't do badly in the language department. We can read most major Western European languages and he can do Russian too ( and please don't ask me for a list of non major ones, but no certainly cant read Icelandic or Finnish).
And we can communicate in most of them, somewhere on the spectrum of competence between semi-fluent to "restaurant". By "restaurant", I mean that you can ask for the menu, the bill, more water, bread and wine, say you want the meat medium well done -- and roughly comprehend what the waiter tells you are the specials of the day (at least sufficiently well not to end up with a plate of tripe when you thought you were getting red mullet).
Anyway, the kids (predictably enough) are busy boning up on languages far beyond that narrow back-garden range of expertise. The son has just gone to the American University in Cairo for a year to learn Arabic, both Modern Standard and Egyptian colloquial.I did acquire some lower level restaurant Arabic a couple of years ago, but have forgotten most of it. Anyway now I reckon I'll have my own interpreter on hand.
The daughter is about to start a PhD at Durham (on Southern Sudan and the history of veterinary care -- cattle vaccination pictured above). And she is embarking on Dinka, which is one of the languages spoken there. That is a rather different kettle of fish. For a start you can't enroll in a course on it, and surprise surprise the local language lab (sorry -- it's called "centre" now) doesn't have any Dinka tapes either.
So what do you do?
Well, the answer is that you have to rely on Dinka speakers' time and generosity. The daughter is currently being helped by a friend in the USA, who herself learned Dinka more than a decade ago and is passing on some of the basics via Skype and sending vocab lists etc. Never mind the grammar, the pronunciation seems unbelievably hard -- at least, to judge from the funny sounds emerging from her room.
She has also discovered (bless those missionaries) some translations of the Bible into Dinka, which will help at the next stage.
The idea is that when she has grasped a bit, she will find some Dinka speakers in the UK to spend time with for some periods of total immersion. There are some in London, who may be able to help... but if anyone out there knows some Dinka speakers in the North East, let us know. Rek Dinka preferred, but any dialect would be OK!
(If you want to know what I have been up to in this House of Babel -- I am half way through the next chapter of my Roman laughter book, struggling a bit with Aristotle, but I think I've got the hang of him now; and then for fun I've been sounding off about Blair and Jane Ellen Harrison.)