Language Learning: Full-Time Job

89705247Learning language and culture is hard.  It’s never-ending.  There’s no point at which you can say, “I’m done.  I know all there is to know.”  It’s always-changing, a process that causes you to re-evaluate what you knew yesterday and realize most of your assumptions were wrong.  It’s messy.  For a while you have the functional ability of a one-year-old – you can’t articulate your needs, you can’t understand your world, and you act inappropriately without realizing it.

It’s humbling, humiliating and frustrating.  And right now, it’s our full-time job! 🙂

For instance, here’s a typical Tuesday:

  • 6:15 – Get up, get girls ready for school.  Begin inner war (see previous post).  Review language flashcards to start thinking about new words for the day.
  • 7:15 – Leave for school – takes about 30 minutes between walking and riding the bus.
  • 8:00 – Return from school – study language flashcards for 30 minutes while walking/riding.
  • 8:30 – Computer – return emails, type reports, process financial transactions in two or three currencies. Work on taxes.
  • 10:00 – Language study – workbooks, websites, and creating flashcards.
  • 11:30 – Lunch break!!
  • 12:00 – Walk to the store, post office, etc.  Stumble through asking for necessary items, reminding people that we’re learning Slovak and asking for their patience.
  • 1:00 – Meet with language teacher for lesson.  The location varies – might be at the apartment, coffee shop, store…
  • 2:00 – More errands around town, language study while riding buses and trams.
  • 3:15 – While I’m getting off the bus, an older lady begins to chew me out in Slovak.  I’ve obviously done something wrong – maybe I was supposed to let her get off first?? – but I can’t catch what she’s saying.  I can only apologize profusely… at least I know how to do that!
  • 4:00 – Pick up girls at school.  Once again, practice language speaking to their teachers to find out about today’s happenings and upcoming events.
  • 4:30 – Back to flat for quick dinner, homework and chill-out time with girls.
  • 5:30 – Babysitter arrives, off to nearby office for Conversational Slovak meeting.
  • 7:15 – Return home, worship as a family and read books.  Girls go to bed.
  • 8:00 – Walk the dog.  Praying and studying language flashcards while walking.
  • 8:30 – Hunker down with computer again for online ESL training class.
  • 9:30 – Turn on TV and watch recorded Slovak news show or other language listening activity.  I feel happy if I understand 10%!
  • 10:30 – More ESL class or language study, getting ready for bed.
  • 11:30 – Hopefully asleep by this point.

Granted, this is a mashup of both our daily schedules, but it’s a pretty good picture of life right now.

kosice-d-st-elisabeth-cathedral-with-clock-detail1Now before you see all the frustration and humiliation and nothing more, here’s a peek between the lines of the schedule.  Here’s where we find the grace I mentioned in the previous post:

  • 6:45 – Enjoyed breakfast with the girls – conversations include last night’s dreams, today’s school schedule, and their excitement about playing with the babysitter tonight!
  • 7:33 – Encouraging interaction with a Slovak woman on the bus, who tells our girls they are beautiful – even though they can’t really understand her.
  • 8:20 – Finished a set of flashcards and realize I’m further along than I thought!
  • 8:40 – Read an encouraging email from someone who’s read our recent blog.  Also excited to see plans coming together for a visiting team this summer.
  • 12:15 – Had a pleasant conversation (in Slovak) with a man who works at a local store where I’ve been shopping.
  • 1:50 – Finishing a fun language lesson, where our teacher has complimented our progress!  Also tried a new food at the coffee shop.
  • 4:05 – Girls are bubbling with energy about a fun day at school.  They chatter all the way home about games they played, things they did in class…
  • 4:35 – Arrive at the flat to receive a letter from a family member, and a care package from a church in the U.S.  The girls are ecstatic!
  • 6:45 – Great time at Conversational Slovak class, interacting mainly with students from around the world who are attending college and graduate school here in Kosice.
  • 7:30 – Brief time of family worship and prayer before bed.  Reminded once again, by the girls’ enthusiasm, of all the things we have to be thankful for here.

3 thoughts on “Language Learning: Full-Time Job

Add yours

  1. I can’t even fathom the difficulty of learning another language–failed Spanish miserably in college! But I still struggle to understand the precious words of grandchildren as they giggly tell me of all they are doing on the phone. (I do better in person!) Please add to your list daily that you are followed by our thoughts and prayers as you work so dilligently to learn, understand and minister in your new hometown. Love to all of you!

  2. One day you will be riding on the bus and realize you understand most of the conversations going on around you. Hang in there – it comes!

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