Well, we are nearing the final stretch of our laser beam focused language learning that we’ve been doing over the last 10 months or so. It has been extremely difficult to keep the focus, socialize only with Narnians for the most part, and not get involved in any other ministry. 500 concentrated in class hours while in the states (not including 5 years in the Narnian community) followed up by about 1200-1400 hours of concentrated Narnian learning in the last year here is a lot to take in. I think we both still feel like we have far to go, but it is time for us to move to the village and get on with what God has asked us to do. We haven’t crossed the finish line, or even come down the final stretch for that matter. We will be in learning mode for quite some time, but we are definitely approaching a milestone.

As some of you are aware, I began learning Narnian braille a couple weeks ago. Up to that point, I had been illiterate in the language with no real solution on how to read or write. When we lived in the US I had obtained a copy of the Narnian braille alphabet when we took a trip out here to scope things out, but I really didn’t have anyone in the US to verify if what I was learning was correct. So I shelved that until I finally found a blind guy to help me out here in Narnia 2 or 3 weeks ago.

Contrary to what some may think, I really don’t enjoy talking about blind technology, have few blind friends, and that whole part of my life doesn’t get a lot of thought. Since I have been going through all these transitions with sight loss however, and because I have to use the tools as part of the journey, I have written and talked about them a bit over the last couple years. This is another blog where I will alert you to some of the nuances of training I’m receiving and details around Narnian braille. If that sort of thing is interesting to you, read on. If not, go read somebody’s political post on Facebook and click “like” and waste another 5 minutes of your life. No really, you don’t have to keep reading. J

Ok, so first of all it is important to know a bit about English braille. Each letter is composed of a cell of 6 dots. There can be any combination of dots within that cell that represents a letter. For example, top left dot is position 1, middle left, position 2, and bottom left position 3. Right top 4, right middle dot 5, and bottom 6 dot 6. Letter a is dot one, dots 1-2 is the letter b and so on. It isn’t as formulaic as you would think, but it works.

So of course you have 26 combinations for the letters of the alphabet and numbers follow the first 10 letters of the English alphabet. Where everything gets crazy is that English braille has a lot of contractions. 189 to be exact. These are letters representing whole words, letter combinations like ough, ence, ance, and conjunctions like and, but and so on. So that is a lot of dots to figure out. These six celled creatures are then jammed next to one another making it very important that you feel just right and properly to read the words in front of you. I still am a fairly slow braille reader but becoming faster all the time.

I raise all of this because the Narnian alphabet has 36 consonants and 12 vowels. I am now through the braille alphabet in this language and theoretically should be able to read anything if I have the vocabulary in Narnian to do so. Many of the same letters in Narnian are the same in English braille and have made the process to memorize and use the alphabet fairly easy. In fact, I would claim that it is much easier to read Narnian braille after you know English braille compared to sighted folks trying to read through the crazy symbols of the script for the first time. The cool thing is that I will now be able to read Hindi, Bengali (the language of Bangladesh), because Narnian braille uses the same script. Just so you know, the script looks like some crazy crap like this: मप्रभु अमित्तैको छोरा योनासँग बोल्नुभयो। परमप्रभु भन्नुहुन्छ, 2 “निनवे एउटा ठुलो शहर हो, त्यहाँका मानिसहरूले दुष्ट कर्महरू गरिरहेको बिषयमा मैले सुनेकोछु। यसकारण, तिमी त्यो

That is the first couple verses of the book of Jonah by the way – a story I’m working on orally and in written form now too.

And I have to admit that it was a huge blessing in disguise to not know how to read Narnian braille up to this point because in that time I was able to develop a huge base of the language that makes literacy very possible. According to a friend of mine doing the same language approach that I am using, he said it is likely that I know between 6000 and 7000 words at this point. That is a lot to have when you begin reading versus knowing how to say “hello” and then trying to read a sentence. It is much like a first or second grader learning to read who has already learned how to speak their own language.

So I’m a Narnian reader now. It is painfully slow, but it will build over time and get easier. Some interesting things about Narnian braille that I have discovered so far.

1. Words are not separated from many prepositions. For example “in the house” is written as “inhouse” or literally translated as “housein” (gharbitra) in Narnian. It is tricky as you are learning to read to recognize the end of the word and beginning of a preposition like from, in, into, up, below, etc.
2. The first short vowel of Narnian, the short a, is not written in braille. So for example, the conjunction “but” is “tara” in Narnian. That is written simply as tr with no spaces assuming an a in between the t and r and after the br So yeah, that is hard to figure out at times, especially if you have limited vocabulary on the text you are reading.
3. There is a special software where I can take any electronic script of the Narnian language convert it to braille, save it on an SD card, then put it on a very small refreshable braille display. This means in regular terms that most Narnian braille is available to me. An electronic braille display is a very portable machine where a person can store hundreds of braille books.
4. There are several aspirated letters in the Narnian alphabet which are represented by English braille symbols in the Narnian alphabet gh, th, dh, etc. to make things a lot easier since I already have that in my head from English braille.
5. Punctuation in the Narnaian and English braille systems also seems to be working the same.
6. And to make life easier, the long e letter and sound and I sounds/letters are basically the exact opposite in English braille. So when I am reading a Narnian long e, it is written as an English i. Beautiful. Babel . . . you did well boys. Real well.

There is a lot more I could write about the journey so far. All this to say, that reading is power and it certainly does open up the door for many other things as you learn a language. I still need to be spending the majority of my last couple months talking and listening in Narnian, but I am thankful I can take literacy with me to the village as well.

Please feel free to comment or ask further questions if this is your sort of thing. Thanks for walking with us on the journey to laying a foundation here in Narnia.