En route to Faite, Tuamotus, French Polynesia. Bon jour Viti! The crew are practicing their conversational French as we continue our journey home. You would be surprised how quickly some can listen to and pick up functional phrases as our crew did in all the Spanish speaking areas we recently visited! Educationists tell us that people who learn multiple languages when they are young have been better prepared to learn additional languages when they get older. Our crew is an example of this. Most speak two languages automatically, as do most Fiji folk, and some like our crew speak three! If you add their own regional dialect you're looking at four!
How do we learn best? Best means quickly, painlessly and with a high degree of retention. Teachers say if they could "bottle" what factor motivates learning they could make a fortune! Why is it that certain things are learned after one session and others require repetition? I can recall taking time to prepare a lesson on a topic in science. It included a motivating introduction alive with "realia" and followed by copious illustrations, time for practice and first hand experiences - all focused on the topic and with appropriate AV materials and handouts including a median and final summary complete with vocabulary and activities! I thought the lesson went well and I even "threw in" an off the cuff funny story to illustrate one small point.
A day or two later I met the parents of one of the students that had attended that particular lesson. We got to talking and the parents related that their son had shared the lesson with them. I was very pleased to think that all that preparation had not gone in vain and that I had achieved my lesson goals and behavioral objectives.....WHEN the parents told me the joke I had told the class and failed to mention anything about the lesson topic!!!!!!Rather than allowing it to steal the wind from my pedagogical sails, I spoke to the son and I tried to discover why he had recalled the joke first when the lesson was so much better presented than one silly joke [and if you know me, you know it was extremely corny!]. Ah if I could only bottle that!
Why that introduction? Each drua/vaka although representing the Pacific as Pacific Voyagers with a "Hokulea chant and actions" has its own form of cultural expression that gives each canoe a uniqueness. The Maori group would have, of course, hakas that pertain to the sea. The Uto ni Yalo, representing Viti kei Rotuma, was presented with a special "Bole" by Ratu Manoa Rasigatalei who voyaged with the drua in 2010 and is now championing the cause of the shark. The Bole is a chant accompanied by related movements that, in this case, refers to the relationship between the Uto ni Yalo, its crew and their homeland of Viti.
All Uto ni Yalo crew "must" learn the words and associated movements before we reach Faite as this is the first opportunity we will have to perform it for a truly traditional audience there. We are looking forward to this and to the meke [dance] that we will also learn and perform.
How best to learn the bole? Wait for crew sessions? Ferret away in some quiet place and memorise it - words first? Yeah that sounds good - learn the words first and then put the action to it! Easier said than done if you are decades away from rote learning! There must be a better way......what have you suggested to your students? Of course......mnemonics, that's it get each bole line...find the first letter and then remember what word is represented by that initial.....Great here goes R S U V h D A K u A e....Do you see what I saw? Perhaps not as I have this weird imagination....guess that's why I taught! Royal Suva has Dakua eeeee! Now I promise this writing is a test of my recent memory......here goes
Rogo kaci ni Vanua!
Uto ni Yalo au tukuna
Viti au valataka nikua
Dau soko tabu vakasuka
Au na luveni qaqa
Au na qaqa
Please forgive the literal translation that follows.......Vo sota mada......for my mistakes.....
Hear the call of the land
Sailing the seas
Voice of the Uto ni Yalo
Today I fight for Fiji
Always sailing forward, never looking back.
I am a son of the brave
I AM BRAVE!
The choreographing that accompanies the bole was also done by Ratu Manoa and emphasises the importance of the seas, land and the people. Now to get the rhythm and expression that goes with the words and movements! That is another type of learning called "psycho-motor", whereas the memory of the words has been strictly "cognitive"!
A very wise educator shared with me a very obvious, but often forgotten fact. "If you only learn one small thing everyday for one year, you have already learned 365 new things"! The human intellect is such that we are capable of so much more each day. Do we read? Do we converse and really listen to those who converse with us? Do we observe our environment with perception? And do we take time to appreciate life each day? If you can say yes to all of the above you are indeed blessed and have the makings of a wonderful learner.
tabu soro Viti kei Rotuma....start today....what have you learned? For instance were you aware that the next thing you will read you will NEVER FORGET? The adult male Sperm Whale, as part of its reproductive behavior and anatomy, has a penis that is 6 foot long with a diameter of 10-12 inches? Like many male mammals it has a specialised bone called a bacculum that gives its penis the "erective support" it needs to mate at sea!
Sorry if that bit of cetacean natural history offends any sensitivity, but I guarantee you, you won't forget those dimensions. Ah, the nature of learning in humans!!!!!!!!!! the journey continues!