This is a crazy little border town, and languages are a mess here.
We’re still studying Karen, and it’s still exhausting.
And yesterday, I had my first Burmese lesson. Well, I suppose I have known “hello”, “thank you”, “milk”, and “don’t have” for quite some time. But this was more official, and for the record, it followed a 90-minute Karen lesson.
We returned from our Karen lesson–with the standard language learning headache–at 5pm with the plan to go swimming before dinner and meeting for prayer with some friends. But we opened the door to swim, only to find a very big crowd gathered round.
First Burmese word of the lesson: police.
The police were coming, so a number of adults and kids had come inside the gate to wait it out. We decided to stay; in general, less occurs with white eyes looking on. We sat down with the kids and quickly became live jungle gyms.
After about half an hour, the police still hadn’t come, and it had been quite a long time with a tense atmosphere. I asked the girl sitting next to me to teach me to count 1 to 10. This is always a great place to start, because it can easily be used in the markets. I actually started working on my Thai numbers for this purpose a couple weeks ago. It was another time filler, actually, but instead of waiting for the police, I was waiting at the hospital one of those many times. Numbers are also easy to practice during workouts: counting repetitions in different languages, counting backwards the last thirty seconds of a run, or keeping track of laps. I’ve been practicing both Karen & Thai numbers this way, why not add Burmese to the mix?
But that was only the beginning.
It quickly turned into a community activity. I had adults gathered around and more interactive than I’d ever seen. They seemed so pleased, and so happy to be teaching! By the end of an hour, I think I learned how to ask: what your name is, what her name is, and what his name is. I also learned to state: what my name is, what your name is, what his name is, and what her name is. And something about eating fish that I didn’t really understand. Of course, all of the name discussion led to me learning the names of more adults in the community, which is actually really hard to remember when you’re already learning the language they are telling you in; it’s difficult to determine where the new vocabulary ends and the name starts.
At one point, I had a Karen woman explaining in Karen about Burmese grammar, which is one way to throw your mind for a big loop.
It was almost just a teaser of exactly what I’m hoping for in learning Burmese. I am thankful to be learning Karen, but I’m anxious for our sweet friends to be teaching us regularly and helping us practice constantly. I think it will come a little quicker, but may involve day-long headaches, I suppose.
We’re hopeful. And we really are still trying desperately amidst the chaos we call our lives. Can I use this blog as a plug to ask you to please be praying that language would come for us? We are so ridiculously hopeful, and we’d love to see miracles!