Monday, November 23, 2015

Language is such a big deal!

If I could just communicate!   We work with the Vietnamese people every Sunday.  I have learned a few token sentences.  I pray every Sunday that they don't respond.  I can't remember whether the tone goes up or down or are they an even sound.  A "y" is an "e", a "d" is a "d" but sometimes its a "Z".   An "x" could be 2 or 3 sounds?  I am corrected at every breath I take and I still can't hear nor perform the sound that they are exemplifying.   Good Grief! I'm from the south!  We have vowel problems anyway!!!  The Vietnamese have one thing going for them.  The language is romanized.  At least then I have a fighting chance.  This is the Vietnamese alphabet. 
As you can see.... no "f", no "J", no "w", and no "z" ..... which means that you will never have to worry about an "F-word" coming your way from a Vietnamese person!!  But how do they get their questions answered like "what" "why" "where" and "when"?  How do they "jump" out of the way when a motto is coming?  And of course, zebras are non existent here anyway.   I don't know!  They seem to make up for the lost letters in their alphabet with vowels and their sounds.  Just like English these are the vowels...

These are all the sounds one vowel can make....
Each symbol, squiggle, and hash mark means a different sound ... up, down, wiggly, or question mark.  Oh, good grief, I'm too old for this!   Really, I have it pretty good because I think that Khmer (ka-mi) is worse.
No real letters here.   I am not sure how they even begin to learn this stuff.   But some days I am not sure what is worse.... the foreign language or the broken English. 
One day I was on the phone with a lovely Khmer man who was confident and anxious to show off his English skills.   This didn't mean that I didn't have to listen intently because their English is never as good as they think it is.  And it is certainly more difficult over the phone. He told me that I needed to use a different phone number for this call.  Upon my request he began to give me the new number.   The phone numbers here are 9-digit numbers.  He began.... 095 223 ..... I was thinking, "Ok so far this is good.  No need for an apologetic repeat so far"... he continued.... 3,1,"zevvie-on"!
                            "oh, excuse me, I didn't catch that last number, 3,1 what?"
I paused for a brief moment to process this number, but nothing came! 
                           "let me repeat that number to you, OK?  095 223 31 (still nothing came to me so all I could do is repeat exactly what he gave me) zevvie-on.
                           "Yes. that's right."
                          "OK.  Well, "zevvie-on " is not a number so I'm going to count and you stop me at    "zevvie-on", OK?
I began counting.  1,2,3... nothing yet.... 4,5,6... Oh no I have only a few more numbers to go what am I going to do when I get to the end?.... 7
                              He quickly blurted, "That's it." 
                              "That's it?  Zevvie-on is seven ?"
                              "Yes, Madam" (they use Madam a lot.... a kick back from their French days)
Puzzled still with the results yet grateful the mystery was solved I said, "Thank you.  I'll call that number."

So my lack of language mastery still remains present.  Don't expect me to be rattling off a bunch of Vietnamese when I get home, after all, what am I going to do with Vietnamese in Cardston anyway?  I have a greater respect for Joel who was self-driven to learn Chinese; for Taylor (Hmong), Vaughn (Russian), and Brant (Russian) who spent 2-3 months in the MTC to learn their respective new languages.  (I think the greater admiration is that they stayed in the MTC for that length of time without going crazy.)

What I have learned is that there are some things that you don't need language for.  Every Sunday I see joy in their eyes when we arrive to the church.  They can't wait to shake our hands.   And what little bit of Vietnamese I use they are thrilled that I tried. I see their soft, warm, "thank you for trying" look.    I'm sure my broken Vietnamese is worse than their broken English.  I see their love of their children.  I see their sweet kindness and care toward one another.  

You don't need words to be a true disciple of Christ.   That is a language I need to learn better.