Thursday, November 4, 2010

To Learn A Language

Somewhere along the list of reasons a person joins Peace Corps is "to learn a foreign language". It's definitely a bonus, a perk, a catalyst to the PC process. I mean, I was totally interested in learning a foreign language when I put pen to page and joined up.

And then I freaked out (if you haven't figured this out yet, I freak out, a lot).

A LANGUAGE?! Was I kidding myself? Learning a foreign language is hard. It's scary. It's past frustrating.

Then, you get to Welcome Week and everybody tells you not to freak out (so, you freak out more). You get to PST [link] and everybody tells you it will be fine (it's not). You get to site [link] and you think you are starting to understand (you aren't).

Really, learning a foreign language ain't an easy thing. I mean, duh. You aren't just learning a language, you are learning a culture, a way of expressing one's self within a totally different context. In Azerbaijan, you don't say, "Have a great time!" you say, "May your time pass well." It just ain't the same.

Of course, you get it. You have to work at it, but you do. Now, when I speak in English, I find myself re-structuring my sentences to make sense to an Azerbaijani English speaker. I don't say words in English that I know sound like bad words in Azerbaijani (that's why if you ask me, I say I am ill, not sick") and I stay away from 5-dollar words.

So, I guess it isn't the language that is hard, it's learning the culture behind it. Geez. Those, "ah-ha" moments get you sometimes.