For daily language practice, I write three or four sentences in English and then translate them into Burmese and Karen, in hopes of practicing & improving my Burmese whilst not losing my Karen. I then take it in to my Burmese teacher to go over the Burmese, and a Karen friend to go over the Karen. Whilst reviewing it yesterday, my teacher noted that I made a mistake in my English sentence, so that’s awesome.
Perhaps it is good practice for me not to lose my English ability, either.
This week, we are also learning body parts. Not head and arm and such, which I already knew, but collarbone and nostril and throat. This is a precursor to studying some medical terms, diseases, and things that might help me at the clinic or translating in medical situations.
I was a little nervous to have my sixty-year-old conservative male teacher teaching me body parts, but it was his idea. He is getting more and more familiar with our “business” as he called it–and he knows I can often use words for the kids, cooking terms, and medical. Anyway, we made it through breast yesterday so maybe we can survive the rest?
After we went over stomach, he gave me the next term and translated it as “solar plexus.” I gave him a blank stare and said I didn’t know that word in English, while I’m racking my brain questioning if he’s heard of Plexus?
“Solar plexus? Yes, you know. Right here. On your stomach.” (He motions vaguely, because, again, it’s a pretty conservative culture.)
I wondered if Plexus got it’s name from a formal name for intestines, so I ask if he means intestines? This was an absurd suggestion, clearly. He seems a bit embarrassed to give too much detail, so I’m wondering if we suddenly dropped down lower than the stomach?
I reply, “I’m sorry. I don’t know ‘solar plexus.'”
“Yes, that is what I am hearing. I understand what you are saying but I don’t know it.”
He pulls out his dictionary and begins thumbing through. “Navel! Navel, do you know this?”
“Oh! Yes, I know. We call it ‘belly button.'”
“I think most call solar plexus.”
“I really don’t think so. I know navel, but I think most people use belly button. Even with a doctor I would say belly button.”
So now, my Burmese teacher has moved onto teaching me both Burmese & English! And I’ve learned I do in fact have a solar plexus, which–as a bonus–doesn’t make me feel as nauseous as the word “belly button.” Win.