Keep On

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A few weeks ago, in one of my classes, we had a guest speaker. From her first carefully pronounced word, it was evident that she was not a native English speaker. As I listened to her throughout her talk, I was struck by how well she was speaking. I mean she was doing such a good job speaking English, which she should since she was teaching a college class with an English-speaking audience, but still. I was impressed.

I’m not sure if anyone else in the class thought much about her accent, but I did. I thought about all the work that went into knowing the phrases and colloquialisms she was so fluidly using. Behind each word was probably a moment of confusion, a fear of never being understood. All of that work had paid off though and I hope she feels that.

I often mention the importance of truly connecting with the culture you live in on this blog, but I don’t always talk about how stinkin’ hard it is to learn the language you need to connect.  I clearly remember sitting in an Italian classroom, my neck aching from stress, struggling to understand the words being spoken to me. I know how hard it is, but as time has passed I’ve forgotten how truly difficult it is to live in a different language.

So, for those of you who don’t speak your country’s language and haven’t had the opportunity to fully learn it: I understand how hard learning a new language can be. You don’t have to know the language to be valuable.

And for those of you who are in the moments of confusion and translation and vocab charts: keep on.

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Language Mishaps Happen by Claire P.

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{via etsy}
I’ve lived in Czech my whole life, and I still make mistakes in the language. I’ve gone to national schools and have Czech friends, but it’s inevitable. Just for giggles, I thought I’d share my latest language mishap, so that you know that it’s ok to still have problems with your second language even after 18 years!

I just started going to “autoskola” (driver’s ed) here, and we were talking about train crossings. I understood everything fine, but I had a question about the flashing lights on the sign before the tracks (an intelligent question, I assure you!). To understand what went wrong, you need to know that we had just been talking about blinkers, which in Czech are called “blinkery” (one of the only words similar to English). There’s a slightly different word for when the blinkers are flashing.

In Czech:
Blinkery= blinkers.
Blikat= flashing.

I wanted to ask a question about the flashing lights, and confused the two words. I ended up combining both words and asked if the lights “blinkat”, which means vomit!! The question then sounded something like: What do I do when the white light is vomiting?

I didn’t realize what I was saying until it came out of my mouth, but thankfully, nobody noticed. I tried to keep a straight face, but couldn’t stop giggling after that, because of how ridiculous the question was. Every time the thought crossed my mind, I cracked a smile, and had to practice some serious self-control to not burst out in laughter in front of my teacher and the whole class.

Oh my, I’ll never know this language completely perfectly, but I guess it’s important to remind myself that it just adds another layer of humor and adventure to an MK’s life!