Tuesday, December 17, 2013

learning a language.

My attempts to capture the language unlock the parts of my brain that are rarely used and inevitably finds me stumbling for Thai phrases but coming up with my high school Spanish or the bits of French, German or Italian I’ve picked up on other travels and are miniscule indeed. I really have to think before I speak, not just to try to translate or find the right word but to make sure the words match what I’m trying to say…and each other. I’ve had to stop myself on multiple occasions from saying things like ‘muy aroi’ (‘very’ in Spanish and ‘delicious’ in Thai) or responding ‘grazie’ when wanting to thank someone.

It makes a great contrast to teaching English to the kids. It puts you in their shoes, not knowing what’s going on, not being able to make sense of the scribbles that are supposed to be letters, the babblings that are supposed to be words and hold a meaning that you have yet to discover. But when you do unlock that meaning, even just a tiny bit of it, enough to order dinner or be able to pay with exact change, it’s an awesome feeling. It’s a process both frustrating and exhilarating and one I’m afraid I’ll never completely conquer.

a random Buddha

1 comment:

  1. Great description of what it's like to learn a foreign language, especially when you already know one or two others. The words constantly get jumbled in your mind, b/c to you, "muy aroi" makes perfect sense! You really capture the sense of accomplishment at being able to understand a phrase or say what is required in the new language, however trivial the transaction may seem.