Thursday, September 2, 2010

Learning a New Language

It sounds glamorous and adventurous.  I thought it would be.  I'm finding it really isn't.  I took 3 years of Spanish in high school.  No problem.  This is not the same.  Living without any English and having to actually function in the language has many challenges.

Some days I understand what I hear and can convey what I want to say.  Other days, I feel like a total idiot.  I like the days where I can function better.

It probably doesn't help to live in a culture that they love to laugh.  Not with you; at you!  Sometimes the sight of a white person (i.e. me!) is enough to make someone break out in laughter.  Other times it is the sound of a white person trying to speak their language (i.e. me!).  Getting laughed at takes some getting used to!  After 1 year and 1/4 I'm slowly getting there.

Some of my favorite language blunders that I know I have made (because I am sure there are many that I don't even know I have made!):

"I washed myself with my house helper."  I meant to say: "I washed the dishes with my house helper."  A slight difference.

"I have to go home and cook a sacrifice for my family." I meant to say: "I have to go home and cook dinner for my family." I had been translating the story of Isaac's sacrifice.  Sacrifice was on my brain.  (I can never spell sacrifice right; thank goodness for spell check.)

"Can you go buy us a fetish (basically an idol) at the market?" We meant to say: "Can you go buy us some charcoal at the market?"  The look on her face was hilarious.  Like jaw dropped to the floor.

In those instances it is really easy to laugh at ourselves!

So, today after a year studying the local language Mr. Sojourner and I were tested.  (Insert jeopardy music here.)

I was super nervous.  I thought I was going to throw up.  (TMI?  Sorry.)  I really had not hit language learning very hard this summer with our normal language tutor working with the Peace Corp., the kids out of school, moving, being burned out, etc.  So, I thought that this was really not the best time to be tested.  I was ready for bad news.

But, alas, God is merciful and good and a help to those in need (and I was very much in need of some help)...we passed!  Sweet.  Thank you Lord.  You are awesome.

Can you believe when we come back again in a few years we will have to learn another language?  What in the world did I sign up for?!

Basking in His goodness,


  1. Mrs Sojourner, I look forward to your post every week! This is really awesome.
    I really can't grapple with what a challenge it must be to be totally immersed in another language and to constantly be struggling for your words. Although my husband and I sincerely hope to live abroad one day.
    Congrats on passing!!!! So, I'm confused...are you going back home and then returning to a different area of Africa?

  2. There are many different people groups in the country we live in and so we began with a little bit of French whic helps us to function in govt settings and in other West African countries (4 month which really was not enough and when we moved on to the local trade language we lost a lot of our ability to speak French, though we can still mostly understand the answers form in the local trade language) then moved onto learning the local trade language which allows us to function in our country and occasionally in a few bordering countries areas with similar people groups. There is still a specific people group langugae that we will learn, but have decided not to tackle it this time around (so that we won't lose the local trade language that we have spent almost a year learning). We will go "home" to the US in 2 years to see family and rest for a 6 month period, then we will return again for another 3 years or so. We will continue doing this to this same country as long as He leads and allows.

  3. Wow! You are my hero. I was laughing WITH you about each of your language blunders. I only know a teeny tiny bit of spanish and that's it. Language isn't my strong suit.

  4. Hi! I'm visiting from Alicia's. I used to live overseas and remember the humbling experiences we had learning Vietnamese. It was so rewarding, though, to be able to interact with and get to know people in our community. Grace to you as you persevere and learn to laugh with your friends there.

  5. Your language blunders make me blush for you and laugh with you. It must be really hard being laughed at. Are there other English speakers there whose shoulders you can cry on from time to time?

  6. Thanks for laughing WITH me guys. :)


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