In the summer of 2009, I had the distinct privilege of teaching Afaan Oromo to a group of American High School Students at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities. Working at a Summer Residential Youth Camp has taught me more about American culture than what I have learned over the last seven years.
I could possibly call my experience a useful immersion into American culture. From the diverse ethnic representation of the students at the camp to the rigorous classes offered, the program was all but a regular academic curriculum.
When the Program Director asked me if I can teach Afaan Oromo as one of the four languages offered at the camp, I didn’t blink to accept the offer. But I wasn’t quite sure what I will be teaching. Nor did I know that it will prove to be harder than I thought. Confident of my knowledge of Qubee, I waited until a week before the beginning of my class to come up with lesson plans.
As I started planning the daily lessons, teaching Afaan Oromo for two hours every day for two weeks seemed unattainable. I searched the web extensively for organized Afaan Oromo lesson with no avail. Simply, there is too little information out there on the World Wide Web for non-Oromo speakers to learn Afaan Oromo on their own. Even for native Oromo speakers like me, who had not the knowledge but the interest in teaching others the Oromo language, there were no references to use as a guide.
I wanted to not only teach the students basic conversational Oromo (enough to meet and greet) but also give them the opportunity to learn about Oromo culture and history. Since my attempts on Google and other major database searches were not successful, as you might have well guessed, I turned to YouTube. Luckily, YouTube is awash with Oromo music videos. But it was disappointing to not find a single video/film with a subtitle about Oromo history, struggle or culture. I was stunned by our collective failure as a nation. We are not doing as much as we should in utilizing the untapped possibilities of information technology to our advantage.
Despite the drawbacks, I was able to put together a more or less structured beginner’s guide to learning Afaan Oromo. I am not a linguist and have never taught a language or any other class. But the experience has been for the most part humbling. I am very grateful to my students for their kindness and willingness to sit through two hours of lecture in foreign language. A language so foreign that only about 5% of the students have heard about before our first meeting. I am posting the PowerPoint slides online so that members of the Oromo Diaspora and non-Oromo speakers who are interested in learning how to read and write in Afaan Oromo can utilize it. Furthermore, I would like to call on Oromo linguists, websites like Qubee.org and Bilisummaa.com, to continue developing their Afaan Oromo language learning tools.
I would also like to take this opportunity to call on Oromos, who are knowledgeable in areas of graphic and multimedia editing, to work on developing some sort of documentary videos (subtitled) about Oromo culture, history and ways of life. An old Oromo saying goes, “unless you call out for help, no one would come to your rescue”.
We have to be more diligent in using the technology to educate others about the plight of Oromo people, the beauty and diversity of Oromo culture. Instead of dwelling only on political bickering, I believe we can impact the lives of millions of Oromos who are still kept in darkness by diversifying our actions and using multiple front approaches to our problems. Our entrepreneurs should focus on economic development. Health Care workers should work on improving the provision of basic health-care in Oromia. Linguists should work on developing and integrating Afaan Oromo into technologically driven world. We all cannot aspire to be politicians.
I welcome suggestions, comments and ideas on how to make the PowerPoint slides better. And I encourage all readers to pass the information onto anyone that may benefit from it. I hope that English as Second Language (ESL) learners and educators will benefit from some of the information contained in these slides.
Oromo 101 : Week one and two Slides
* Many thanks to Weennii who has taken the time to go through the slides and send me his feedback* Please send me your feedback’s and other online Learn Afan Oromo resources you know of at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sources used in making the PowerPoint Slides were linked where possible. I am also grateful to others whose work I referenced.