My Story with toki pona

2023. 07. 16. 00:30 | \English \blog \toki pona

So, story time, about things no one cares about. Before you ask, yes, this is just my journey with toki pona, focusing on the early years mostly, because if I was to cover everything (and there's a lot more than you see on youtube or even on my website), we'd be here for hours and I would've had to research this for days. I like to think that I archive my stuff reasonably well, but there are stuff that are still lost to time, such as my chatlogs on various platforms I've used in the early days.

To start from the beginning, I had a habit of reading Wikipedia for hours when I was around between 12-16. Originally I began reading about Geography and History, which lead me to basically every topic, including linguistics, which lead me to constructed languages and toki pona. It was around 2012, possibly earlier, when I first read the Hungarian article about toki pona (as I didn't begin learning English until 2014 and wasn't conversational until 2016/2017 without using a dictionary or google translate). It looked interesting, but the main force pulling me towards it wasn't its relation to philosophy or the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis, but its very simple grammar and miniscule vocabulary.

I didn't really attempt to learn toki pona until 2014; according to my old emails, I first email myself some "toki pona lessons" on 27th of December, 2014. It was in a Word document and I don't know whose work it was. On the 11th of January, 2015 I emailed myself a toki pona translation of Sex Bomb by Tom Jones, a song that stuck with me at the time; that translation took me a while if I recall correctly. My first attempt to write rap in toki pona was from 15th of January, more than 11 months before "ale ala li pona tawa mi" was written and recorded. I don't know when I joined the main toki pona facebook group; In the summer of 2015, my old account was locked for stupid reasons, had to create a new one and rejoined only in July -- it was most likely after I finalized my toki pona name as "jan Sotan", because in the very early days there was a couple of weeks when I was contemplating using "jan Solan" instead, meaning I've been in the group for a few months probably.

I remember that when I was first thinking about learning the language, the official toki pona book by jan Sonja (i.e. the 'pu') just came out. I might've read more about the language, might've not, I can't remember. But, on the 20th of April, 2015, I ordered the book on Ebay from France and received it about 2 weeks later. I payed 25 euros plus 10 euros shipping for it. There's still no Amazon in Hungary, English-language books weren't easy to come by and ordering stuff online was still considered a risky business at the time, not an everyday fact of life.

From this moment on, I began seriously learning English and toki pona simultaneously, resulting in a weird situation that for around a year I spoke toki pona better than English. Not long after I did my first translations of The Rains of Castamere by G.R.R. Martin and Kedvesem by ByeAlex that I shared publically, both of which were redone multiple times in the next few years. There was also a luckily forgotten audioplay that I made at the end of July of 2015, and an even better-to-be forgotten song in October of 2015 that has a total of 7 views; it was me singing while playing my ukulele recorded on a potato, yes it was a video, and was originally uploaded as unlisted and shown to very few people. Because it influenced a later work, I still remember its title which is "kalama musi lili lon tenpo pimeja". From the video I can see that it had a rather boring C-G-Am-F, in other words a stock I-V-vi-IV chord progression. Its lyrics were deemed "not good enough" later to upload on my website though, a fate shared with most of my work before around 2017 when I first curated my public collection.

From this point forward you can see most of my progression on Youtube, but what you can't see is the toki pona blog I created and run approximately between the summer of 2016 and the spring of 2017, when the hosting site I was using removed their free hosting option. This is only important for one thing, which is tok' apona was born on that website before I moved it to Github where it can still be found, having been preserved for archival purposes. In October of 2017 I uploaded the first version of "lipu lili pi toki pona", then known as "nasin pi jan Sotan" or "toki pona pi nasin pi jan Sotan", which was my first toki pona grammar summary and dictionary. This had been written for around 3 months before it was uploaded (possibly longer) and had been rewritten at one point, before I abandoned the project in 2021. It's still up on Github and is looking for a maintainer if anyone feels like it's worth reactivating it was a live document.

And yeah, since 2019, pretty much everything is preserved on my website, Github and Youtube that's worth preserving in a public manner; the rest is reserved in a more private one. It's been a wild ride and in this past 9 years I went from learning what an SVO word order is to be almost like a "minor celebrity" in the community, to becoming a constant entity that less and less people know and care about. As a fun fact, "ale ala li pona tawa mi" had a massive spike in views on 31st of March 2020 and there was barely a day without it having been viewed at least once every day. In comparison, it had a total of 40 views in the year between 28th of November 2017 and 2018, stagnating and left forgotten.

I know I'm not the most talented guy and my current work is a mix of 3 different niches, but I still do my best to improve and to make something that I can be proud of. It's not the art that many people want, but maybe one day I'll be able to realize what I've been working towards in this past year and what I'll keep working towards in the foreseeable future.

< More uploading 2 hours before 2019 | Phonologica >


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