Over the last two years, I've been privileged to work with the US Embassy in Georgia, developing English programs for Georgian-speaking adults. As a kind of side benefit, this project has not only given me an exposure to, but sparked a fascination for, the Georgian language.
This month, I’ve started a new challenge – mapping out the notoriously intricate Georgian verbal system. Georgian is not related to other languages. It is an agglutinatively inflected language that possesses its own unique writing system. The complexity of its verbal system is well known among linguists and those who attempt to learn the language. It boasts four distinct classes of verb types, each carrying a total of eleven tenses. Verbs in Georgian mark person, number, and tense through both prefixes and suffixes. The language also employs a system of verbal markers that can modify or add meaning to a verb through prefixes and suffixes.
To many, this is a daunting task that would inspire dread; to me, however, I find this kind of challenge exhilarating. Not only does it give me a chance to continue working with some of the amazing Georgian linguists and instructors I’ve got to know; but there is something particularly gratifying about deciphering a complex linguistic system, unraveling a complex morphology. This is also where the technique of a memory palace truly shines.
In a memory palace, we represent the grammatical complexity of a language as spatial complexity. When represented spatially, the intricacies of a language become more manageable and learning it becomes not only fast but easy. With this method, we can take the multifaceted Georgian verb system, in all its rich complexity, and distill it into a tangible, navigable mental space.
This opens up the possibility of mastering a complex language without getting mired in confusion, without enduring years of strenuous, frustrating study. The sensation of being able to actively produce all forms of a complex language without confusion – and within a short time-span – is incredibly satisfying.
Our map of Georgian verbs will hopefully serve as the cornerstone of a memory palace for Georgian, a tool that will help learners navigate the language’s complexity with ease.
Stay tuned as we continue our work the Georgian language alongside other new programs and projects.