the Vernon Journal

Serving the Kingdom in Southeast Asia

Slowly but surely

I think it's always hard to gauge language acquisition - but it's especially difficult without the measuring stick of classes, teachers or tests. Unlike our friends in Bangkok taking Thai lessons, we can't say, "Well, I passed level three, they say level four is really hard!" Since we returned from America, however we've had a renewed endurance in the area of language. Many things are starting to seem more natural and I just wanted to take a minute to share a few victories.

We've started teaching English every Tuesday evening in the village. While a onblur="try {parent.deselectBloggethis may not seem like an "Akha Language Victory", let me assure you, it is. Speaking in front of a group in English has never been an issue for Paul or me, but speaking in front of a group in Akha can leave us terrified. Even just introducing ourselves can be botched due to nervousness. So this opportunity to start out with the kids and teenagers (who tend to be a very forgiving audience) has been great! The fact that our Akha is far from perfect makes for a pretty relaxed and interactive learning environment and allows them to correct our Akha as we correct their English (which is very different from the super-structured-rote-memorization teaching style found in the Thai schools). All in all, it's been a good experience thus far and we're happy about how comfortable we are using Akha to teach English.

Lydia, Photo by Adriel McIntosh

It's funny how the little things can be so encouraging when learning a foreign language. Like for instance, the other day we went to visit our friend (who we often call our Akha mom), Lydia. She wasn't out front when we arrived so we proceeded yell, "Hey Aunt-ie are you home? We've come to visit you!", which is the standard Akha custom in a situation like this. After a minute we heard her response from within, so I let myself in to greet her. When she saw me, she was visibly surprised, apparently she had not recognized that it was me from my initial greeting. If you're wondering why this story is so significant, it's because in some small way I must have sounded like an Akha because she thought I was someone else! Of course, the fact that she's rapidly losing her hearing could be part of it, but either way I'm going to count it in the Win Column!


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