Often our language and culture learning process happens slowly and 90% of the time our victories are small and not very exciting. Sometimes we have mini breakthroughs and those mostly come through shared experiences with our friends. We had just such a experience on Sunday when our friends got out a bag of nuts and began cracking them to pass out after the sermon. This lasted maybe five minutes max but it was fun to sit together and watch while various people took turns smacking the macadamia nuts with a little baton until we’d accumulated quite a pile of shells. Throughout this time I was taking pictures, munching on macadamias and asking my friends about what they were doing. I learned at least 7 new words in two different languages and was able to understand a joke about cracking nuts, a comparison of various nut-cracking methods and a debate about when a macadamia nut is ripe and which kinds are most delicious. This is the sort of environment that language learning really takes off in: it’s the pressure cooker of being in the moment, in the situation and then gathering data (such as pictures) to refer back to later when going into more detail or reviewing what we learned. Hopefully this little snapshot of an everyday activity helps you understand better how even a simple activity like cracking nuts can turn into a profitable language learning experience.
Posts Tagged ‘Language’
During our nearly two week trip to our future ministry location Sharon and I visited five Phu Thai villages that we’d never been to, interviewed over 100 villagers to test their reading comprehension and were able to meet with several key missionaries working in the area. It was productive… but tiring. That came on the heels of our latest language evaluation which was helpful, productive, but also tiring. There’s no rest for the wicked however as events move on apace. We’re in a packing/ preparing phase as there are many things to think about before we head home to the US in a few short weeks. More details will follow soon in our June newsletter. God bless and thank-you for standing with us. -Ric and Sharon
Cathy Drobnick of the NTM USA website fame has written an article highlighting what we did last month. It’s available here: http://usa.ntm.org/mission-news/41227/no_haircuts_on_wednesdays_please
Sharon and her friends jumped into Mork-Fa Falls just the way they came: blue jeans, makeup, necklaces, cell phones and all. Yes, poor Kay forgot to leave her cell phone on the bank before taking the plunge. Here’s a picture of her face before she realized her awful mistake:
Life around this time of year is nuts. Whether it’s caroling all night, preparing special songs, or passing out tracts our friends hardly sleep this time of year. It’s true that we work hard but sometimes it seems like we “play” even harder with our friends. Unlike back home, people don’t get work or school off during this time of the year leaving schedules packed full and little end in sight until the new year.
A common question we get is, “How’s your language learning coming?!” Language learning is a lifestyle. It’s like trying to lose weight, eat healthy, get enough sleep or read through the Bible in a year. It’s hard work and requires a lot of discipline. It also requires sacrifice. You won’t lose weight unless you stop drinking that six pack of Pepsi for breakfast. Language learning has its ups and downs but overall we’re very encouraged with our progress.
We moved. Our new neighborhood is awesome. We’ve really enjoyed getting to know the people that walk around our neighborhood at night and the people that loiter around the local snack shop. Mostly we’re thankful for the lower rent outside the city as it helps us cover our expenses better. Thank-you to those of you who gave to cover our moving expenses.
A recent trip to visit a tribal team about six hours from here was incredible. There are people groups here in Thailand who need to hear God’s live-giving message, the gospel, in their heart language. During this Christmas season our hearts go out to you, our family and friends who have cheered us on to this point. We appreciate your love and support.
Yours, Ric and Sharon
A good friend sent us this prayer request list. Here’s how he’s lifting us up these days:
- That God would find favor on Ric and Sharon granting them good health and full healing for Sharon’s leg from her motorcycle accident.
- For them to create a good study routine for the next few weeks before Christmas.
- That God will show them ways to use their car effectively for ministry.
- That God would lead Ric as he makes disciple-makers of the two guys at his church. Also, that the Holy Spirit would convict their girlfriends of their need for Christ’s redemption.
- That God would direct Sharon to those girls that He would desire for her to develop intentional disciple-making relationships.
- That God would help Ric and Sharon “see” the needs the students have and how to best reach out to them.
- For continued strength and patience in their language learning.
After hours and hours interviewing dozens of people (sometimes multiple times) our friends are likely quite sick of us. On the plus side we now have several hours of raw language data from multiple speakers. Our goal is to now organize all that data, write it out in Thai and then speak it back to the people who gave us the interviews. Easy!
We’ve gotten some incredible stories. Today Tang was telling me about his childhood. His dad took him to boarding school when he was six years old. Dad told little Tang he was just going to go register him and be right back. Tang sat on the sidewalk for twelve hours before one of the teachers at the school found him and asked what grade he was in. Soon all the things Tang had brought to school were stolen except the clothes on his back and the spoon he had to eat with. Even his shoes were gone! But he held onto that spoon for dear life when other kids would beat him up because if he didn’t have it he would go hungry at dinner.
Puts our small troubles into perspective. Thanks for your continued prayers and support! – Ric and Sharon
This week is one of refreshment, encouragement and strategic planning with other members of our organization serving in this region. We’re thankful for this time, these friends and the clarity the first few days have given us so far. This marks the first week since our arrival that we’ve taken done virtually no language and culture study. Instead our days consist of hearing ministry reports from our various tribal teams, business meetings, praying for Thailand and encouraging our fellow workers. Pray this week will be profitable, encouraging, fun and safe. Thanks!
Eight months of learning Thai has been a humbling experience. Not only is the tone of your voice crucial for proper pronunciation the length of your vowels will also change the meaning of words. So you if you say “khao” with a high and falling tone it’s a different word than “khao with a scooping tone. If you say the wrong one you’re still communicating… but not what you intended to say.
In layman’s terms that means Thai is really hard to speak naturally. Here are a few of the statements we’ve made accidentally:
I’m wearing a red tiger. (more…)
We’re now officially in “stage one” culture and language acquisition here in Thailand. Up to this point we’ve been in a “warm-up” phase which basically entails getting our ear attuned to the new sounds and our minds and hearts used to our new way of life. This new stage looks quite a bit different. There are no trips to “the office” for orientation. There are no structured, dictated outings to go on.
Our schedule is completely up to us and our language learning can pretty much be tailored to fit our needs…. as long as we put in at least 40-50 hours per week. So what do we do? Well, there are three basic elements:
- “Exposure” time involves observation and participation in our larger context: getting into the community. This can be anything, but it needs to be consistent, varied and purposeful. We need goals – in fact we plan exactly what we want to observe, learn and participate in to maximize our time.
- “Language Helper” time is intense. We sit down with our language helper in front of a picture book we created in planning the week before. Our goal is to have him tell us what is happening in the pictures we show him. After he tells what is happening in each picture a few times we begin quizzing on this new material.
- “Processing” time is supposed to be minimal. We try to spend as little time as possible putting data into the computer, planning for our upcoming days and doing rote memorization.
Please pray we’ll find a healthy balance of all three elements and also find plenty of time for reviewing our older material. Here is a sample of Thai we’re learning by rote memorization. Not our ideal, but you need a few key survival phrases:
As the old saying goes if life hands you lemons make lemonade. That’s what we’re trying to do with this situation we’re finding ourselves in. Sure, I can’t walk far but there are still a lot of places a person can plop down on a bench and do some serious observing, listening and learning. When Sharon goes shopping I sit on a bench outside the store and talk to people. When we go to the park I plop down by some fountain statue thing and take pictures. During down times I watch Thai television, process pictures, review what we’ve learned and prepare for our upcoming sessions with our teacher.
Overall, I’ve found that having an injury actually makes me more human in some way. People come up and ask what happened and even though I’m not entirely able to explain it I still get the basic point across and it starts a conversation and hopefully one day a relationship. We’ll see what God does. We’re looking at the silver lining. Thank-you for your continued prayers.
It’s amazing how God works. Our May update included a list of special gifts that would be a blessing as we move to Thailand this fall. One important item was a work computer to house our many recordings, pictures, and video we’ll be taking during language learning.
A great friend and supporter answered the call giving us her old computer, a docking station, and a wonderful laptop case. The computer is a Dell Latitude D610 with a 1.88 Ghz processor, 1 Gb of RAM, an 80 Gb hard drive and the very latest Windows and Office suite installed on it. For those who don’t speak computer: it’s a great work horse. We’ll use it until it falls apart.
The national language of Thailand, Thai is spoken by about 60 million people in Thailand. Learning Thai is going to be Ric and my full time job for the first two years of our time in Thailand. There are many things in Thai that will make it very tricky for us English speakers to learn!
A facet of Thai that is very difficult is the fact that it is a tonal language. In tonal languages, the meaning of a word is determined by the pitch at which it is pronounced. An example is the word kao which means “news”, “rice”, and “white”. The distinction is in the tone. Kao means “news” when pronounced with a low tone, “white” with a rising tone and “rice” with a falling tone. Learning the right way to say the tone on words will take much time and practice!
Another major area that will be complicated is learning to read and write. Thai is written in its own unique alphabetic script which has developed from a script found in India. There are 44 consonants and 28 vowels. It is written across the page from left to right without spaces between the words. Certain vowels occur above the consonants and some occur below. Ric and I have been told that it would be most helpful to get familiar with the Thai writing system before starting official Thai study in Thailand. So we bought a book and have found some good websites. Everyday we are learning how to write some symbols and memorizing the sound that goes with them. At first, to me the Thai script looked like a bunch of squiggly lines and circles. Now, it is so encouraging because I can look at a paragraph and recognize the symbols that I have studied! The squigglys are slowly coming to life! Pray for us as we continue on this endeavor!
Some material from Teach Yourself Thai
Here is a short video I put together showing the creativity of the people we met in Thailand. It starts with a radio station we visited and proceeds to a store, a basket weaver, and finally a weaving loom. Enjoy.
In our next post you won’t see us looking like this:
Hopefully the next picture we post will be taken halfway across the world and we’ll be wearing shorts and short-sleeved shirts enjoying 90 degree weather. Our blitz tour of Southeast Asia begins now and will end next Friday and of course we’ll be carefully documenting our trip and posting whatever morsels we possibly can on this site as often as possible. We’re looking forward to a whole lot more warm sun on our faces in the days to come.
So no more of this:
And a whole lot more flying: 40+ hours of it in fact (round trip). Next week there’ll be a whole lot more meeting new people, visiting remote villages, exploring ancient temples, and learning new things. Please pray for our safety and for clarity as we communicate and learn. We’ll post more ASAP!
We have been in Virginia with my brother Sam and his wife Kari since Thursday. This morning we presented our ministry at South Norfolk Congregational Community Church, the church they attend here. Tuesday is Sam’s 23rd birthday, so we’re very excited to be here for that as well. While here we’re doing what we do on the road: talking to people about our ministry, handing out our prayer cards, spending time with family, and Sharon is stealing as much time as possible to work on her Cherokee write-up which is due TOMORROW!!! She will likely be pulling an all-nighter tonight and then be exhausted in the morning.
This coming Friday we head to central Virginia to visit some very good friends and then will drive on to Tennessee on Friday. Please pray for Sharon as she finishes up her paper and for safety as we travel. Thank-you.