Fog may make for a nice picture as it engulfs the Golden Gate Bridge, but I have never heard anyone say that they like to drive in the fog. However, five days a week, I get up from bed and go into the fog. The fog is not along the road, and I don’t recall ever seeing fog in Phnom Penh. The fog that I am speaking of doesn’t cause much of a visibility problem, but it does cause an understanding problem. I think that it was one of my Greek or Hebrew teachers in seminary who spoke of language learning being like driving through fog.
As you learn a new language, it always feels like your brain is in a continual state of fogginess, or so it seems. This is because most teachers are continually trying to teach their students new words and grammar structures. So as a language student, I often feel like I vaguely grasp a newly introduced concept or word, and then the next day something new is again introduced. Thus, it seems like I am always seeing blurry shapes on the horizon that I can’t quite make out.
However, it is amazing to look back on lessons that seemed so foggy at the time, and realize that now they seem so crystal clear. The other day, I flipped through the book from my level one class and realized that somewhere along the way, the fog lifted and now the lessons seemed quite easy. Even though, at the time when I was first learning them, the lessons seemed quite difficult and at times almost overwhelming. Really, I think that the only way to learn a new language is to persistently go into the fog, and hope that somewhere along the way the fog lifts…
The rainy season has begun here and with it has come a welcomed break from the heat. But on the downside comes driving in the rain often and a great increase in the mosquito population. Mosquitoes must have water to lay their eggs in to complete their life cycle, and the rainy season offers an abundance of ideal places for mosquitoes to lay eggs. Some species of mosquitoes can go from an egg to an adult in just 4 days.
A few weeks, ago I had stopped at a street side electric shop to see if I could find a bug light to buy to aid in keeping the mosquito population at a minimum inside my house. I didn’t know the exact name in Khmer, but I asked if the shop had mosquito lights. But all this inquiry received was a very puzzled look from the salesman, and I realized that I did not know the proper name for it in Khmer. I thought for a moment and then asked if they had a light for killing mosquitoes in Khmer. With this, the look of puzzlement left the salesman’s face, and I was led to a shelf with several bug lights on it. In Khmer, the name for the bug light literally means ‘machine electrocuting mosquitoes.’ Which is a fitting name, since the blue lights are only a lure to draw the mosquitoes in where they are electrocuted to death. It may sound cruel, but I have yet to meet anyone who is upset by the death of mosquitoes.
I recently bought another bug light at a shop along the road close to where I live. I had tried and failed to buy one a few months ago at this shop, and I thought that they just didn’t have them. However, this time knowing the proper name, when I told the store owner what I wanted, he quickly pulled one out from under the counter.
Inch by inch, I am moving forward in my ability to communicate. It is a slow process, but every so often a small but encouraging breakthrough occurs.
… in Khmer that is. A couple days ago in language class, our lesson was about the weather, and it came at a good time. The past couple weeks have been a transition from the hot season to the beginning of the rainy season. The hot season has drug on a bit longer than normal this year, but it is thankfully coming to an end now. The past several days have had at least a little rain each day. Our teacher is always good about giving us phrases to use that a typical Khmer person would use. I can now say, “It is so hot that I want to die” in Khmer, which would have been quite useful to know during the hot season.
Below is a page of the lesson about weather. As you look at the Khmer text below, you will notice that there are not spaces between every word. Instead, there are only spaces between each phrase. This is an added challenge to learning to read in Khmer. But as I have become more familiar with the words, I am finding that I can remember which group of letters make up a word.
Below is a very literal English translation of the above Khmer text.
Greetings from Cambodia,
The Cambodian New Year started yesterday. It is a three day celebration where most people return to their hometowns to celebrate with their families. The first day of the celebration is used to welcome new angels who will come for one year periods of time to take care of the earth. People often go to the temple to get blessed or mediate at home in hopes that an angel will stay with their family throughout the new year. The second day is a time when gifts are exchanged and donations are given to the poor. The third day is filled with more ceremonies at the temple centered around forgiveness for misdeeds against the elderly and blessing for the new year. Many businesses are closed and the city looks a bit like a ghost town, since most people return to their hometowns in the countryside. I am enjoying a few days without language school and trying to keep cool as we are now in the midst of the hot season.
Speaking of language, last week I started my second class at the Institute of Foreign Linguistics. Here is the course description of the class I am currently taking: “Students review consonants, vowels and consonant feet, and construct sentences. Topics include shopping, going to the restaurant, going to the post-office, family, school, housework, and seeing a doctor.” I have learned much in the past six months, but still feel like I have just begun the process.
Thanks for your prayers and support,