We’re still studying language. Have we mentioned that? It’s a big part of our lives.
I read a quote this week, “The best language learners are those who continue on no matter how discouraging their experience.”
I think that might be talking about us.
Even if language really doesn’t come too naturally to you, but you just keep going and going, you are the best! …I think it’s kind of a lie, but it somehow keeps me studying day after day, so that’s okay.
Here are some updates on our language learning experience.
I have recently switched to studying Burmese, so I try to study my Karen for a little while every week or so, and then I use it with friends or neighbors a few times a week at least. The rest of the time I am studying Burmese and trying to use that with other neighbors and in the market.
I have found one thing very encouraging: my brain is incredibly capable. Not me, mind you–but my brain. It does a really incredible job of separating the concepts and alphabets. Once I truly have Burmese memorized and “catalogued” if you will, I can quite easily pick out the right phrase and just the right time, or choose to read it in the correct language. I feel like I am truly not forgetting the Karen I need to know, but rather adding to it.
I can see why people say their third language is much easier to learn. When I was first trying to learn Karen, it was like I was being given all this information day after day, but I didn’t know where to put it. It didn’t fit into my pre-existing categories, if you will, because I suppose I never got that far or truly tried with French in high school. For Burmese, I am finding that my brain naturally knows exactly where to put it, like I now have a bookshelf for languages in my brain. It goes there, it stays there, and it is very, very well organized. The human brain is incredible. And this gives me hope that with many, many hours and years of hard work, it is possible!
Meanwhile, Stephen continues to study Burmese, just a few miles ahead of me. He is really great at reading and is getting braver and braver to use new phrases and communicate an idea to our neighbors, or in the market, or at a restaurant. It is fun to see people discover he can read and begin to understand.
It may seem simple to say he can read and write, but let me tell you this: the Burmese alphabet is one of the craziest I’ve ever seen or encountered. Our teacher is an extremely highly-educated guy. He is truly incredible on a lot fronts–we actually just found him in a book in Bangkok last week! He is a writer, so he knows Burmese language. He teaches us the correct way for publishing, for common writing, and for colloquial speaking. And when we don’t understand the idea, he teaches us the English grammar first and then teaches us the parallel in Burmese. Truly. He gives us English lessons in addition to our Burmese. He is an astoundingly smart guy.
And he still has trouble teaching all the elements of the Burmese alphabet. He has trouble explaining certain pieces, or we’ll “discover” a new letter…months later. Stephen will come home with a new letter that didn’t fit into the four alphabets: consonants, vowels & tones, final consonants, and combined symbols. Oh, and the list of literary-specific letters and styles. And then the newly-discovered “this is a rarely used letter” that we have to sort where to put that in our notes and brain library.
That said, Stephen is a great student. His teacher has declared him “his hardest working student!” And that is absolutely no lie. Stephen works so hard to understand and utilize something that really doesn’t come naturally to him. He even makes files like these:
Seriously? It is super helpful for me, as I come down the same road behind him, and it also just makes me proud to see him work so hard! I am praying that God blesses this abundantly, and brings so many good conversations and great relationships through this language.
After he makes all of his notes and flash cards and who-knows-what, he has our teacher go over all of it to make sure it is correct. Last week, after seeing the newest collection and extensive note-taking, he asked if Stephen was planning on publishing a book!
So we’re still studying. But that means we’re also still hopeful!