Thursday, October 22, 2009

How Many Languages Can I Butcher in One Sentence?

I know enough Nepali to be able to construct simple sentences, but not enough to have a vocabulary that enables me to always communicate precisely what I want to say. When this happens, my brain reaches for the only non-English word it can think of. This is usually a Romanian word (although German occasionally pops up, too). So these days it's not uncommon for me to throw together Nepali, English and Romanian into a single sentence. While this is likely entertaining for my instructors, I don't think it will impress the testers when the time comes to evaluate my progress.

It reminds me of a time when I was traveling through Europe a couple years ago. The man at the airport check-in counter asked me a simple question to which I responded "Da, I mean yes, I mean ja, I mean si, I mean... where am I?" It's a very cosmopolitan life I lead.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


A month into Nepali language training, and the steep incline of learning has abruptly flattened to a plateau. That first month was great. I absorbed every drop the teachers threw at me. Learning a language full-time is much easier the second time around; I was miserable for most of Romanian language training.

I am the only student in my class. This is good for a few reasons. Namely, I'm only in the classroom 4 hours a day (but there's plenty of homework) and my teachers can customize the instruction to fit my pace and fluency. The other edge of that sword is that there's nobody else to take the heat for a while. It's all me all the time. And it would be nice sometimes to have another native English speaker in the class to help understand the grammatical explanations given by the non-native English speaking instructor. ("Did you understand when to use 'maa' in the post position and when not to?")

The other downside is that by the last hour of class on Friday my brain is slush. It just shuts down, like a stubborn mule that refuses to budge no matter how hard you kick it.

So now my stubborn mule brain and I have scaled the initial steep climb and have leveled off. I can see up ahead the rocky path of complicated conjugations, illogical verb tenses, and frustrating sentence structures. I'll need some sharp spurs in the next 9 months.