Some years ago, I was in New York, visiting my brother. One day we went to the local library and he found a book called A grammar of Vai (or something similar as I could recall) and as our old family name comes from Vai we decided to look it up. Unfortunately we couldn’t borrow it as it was a “read on site only” copy
Some years later my girlfriend, now turned wife, Lena gave me a reprint of S.W. Koelle’s Outlines of a grammar of the Vei language : together with a Vei-English vocabulary : and an account of the discovery and nature of the Vei mode of syllabic writing that she had tracked down for my birthday (yes, the title’s a mouthful, so we’ll just abbreviate it to Outlines onwards, okay?). Unfortunately Outlines wasn’t the book my brother’d discovered, but it was still interesting (not in the least that it’s the first known orthography of the Vai language). Later on I found that the book we’d been looking for was called A Grammar of Vai, written by W.E. Welmers, but couldn’t find it anywhere (except libraries that, naturally, didn’t do overseas looans).
Come 2016 and I had a job with a bit of passive travel time getting there and back, so finally I had the time to do some reading without distractions! So I started going though Outlines seriously, trying to learn a bit. Also, I started searching online for more info than was on Wikipedia, and a random search on the syllable ꕉ on Twitter led me to a user called @zenodotous who had quoted a Vai proverb. Checking his timeline I saw he, Charles Riley, was working on an English- Vai dictionary and got immensly excited! No less so when he asked if I would like to help out with checking the list for errors. So my travel time for the next three months went into (sort of) proof reading a list of 15 220 terms written in English, Vai and phonetical Vai – from “abandon” (ꕧ ꕪ / ꗃ ꔬꕩ [já ka]/[ɓɔ fíyá]) to “zygote” (ꔞꔤ [kéí]). I read the Vai script before the phonetic, so while it took way longer than the other way around, it made the syllabary stick better.
During that time I also found A Grammar of Vai online, scanned by Google and available in full, which I’m currently going through.
Hopefully I’ll learn the grammar enough to be able to do more than just have some words in Vai here soon, instead going for whole sentences or pages!