It’s the weird time in anyone’s life where they have to learn a foreign language in a foreign country. I don’t think anyone LOVES it. But we all know its something that we need to do in order to be effective in our work. I’m half-ish way through my more focused language learning time here in Uganda (we gave ourselves 2 years) and “So, how’s language learning going?” has become one of my most dreaded questions.
Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE that people ask about my “work” which is, in fact, language learning. I dread that I never really have an answer because we are learning a language that about 1 million people speak which, in big world terms, is not very many at all. So, there are no Rosetta Stone program, no language schools, no online resources and definitely no widely known proficiency tests which means that there is absolutely no standard to measure our progress by. I can’t just say “We’re at level 2.5 of 5”, there’s no test to tell me that. So when I get the question about my language learning, my answer is always changing, unfortunately by my mood.
Some examples of any given day in my week:
An Up Day: I have a triumphant conversation where I understand everything when talking to a sweet lady at the market and I respond correctly. Maybe I even have a few more short and intelligible conversations on my way home. Ask me today how language is going and I say “great!”, “really making progress”, “I feel so encouraged”.
A Mneh Day: I study language in the morning. I have a couple of brief conversations on my way around town. I neither push myself or do anything spectacular nor do I dazzle the locals with my language skills. Ask me today how language is going and I say “ummmm, it’s OK.”, “I know more than I did when I got here”
A Low Day: A friend tries to talk to me in Acholi and I can’t seem to get my brain to comprehend the basics, I have them repeat it several times till we both give up and finish our conversation in English. I make another attempt later that day with a guy at the hardware store and have an epic fail where I accidentally ask him a question that confuses him. He does not think its funny, he really just wants me to buy what I need and move on. Ask me today how language is going and I say “its really tough”, “I have a long way to go”.
Human emotions, including mine, are fickle and change like the wind but I love that I’m learning this heart language of the Acholi people and I KNOW somewhere inside of me that this WILL pay off. I just wanted to take up this corner of the internet to give a little honesty to what can be a difficult process. So if you’ve ever had to or are about to learn a language my prayers are with you, it’s going to suck sometimes. 😉