Monday, August 1, 2011

Lahkhon, mi amigo

Well, it's been a few weeks since I officially quit studying Lao.  A month since I decided to back off of it so I could work on the volunteer building project that is now entering its final stage of completion.  I was planning to use that time to think about the matter.  I have been teetering back and forth between Lao and Spanish for some time.  I started with Lao because of all the Lao people I was meeting in the area in which I live.  I was studying with a group of people with a similar interest and I realized early on that most of them had studied easier languages prior to this...languages that use the same letters as we do, have spaces between the words and in which the vowels don't orbit the consonants like moons.  Yes, I made the mistake of comparing my progress to other people, which is Rule #1 of what NOT to do when you are learning ANYTHING...and that was what made me want to pick up Spanish.  I picked up a book on the subject and only got as far as the words that are similar in both languages (pastor, artista, democratico, romantico, erotico) before I decided to go back to Lao.  I saw the whole thing as a challenge and got a big kick out of the reaction we got from the local Lao community, who are not used to seeing white people speak their language.  Somewhere between starting to learn Lao and now, I suffered an injury that required eye surgery, but when I was fully recovered, I picked it up again.

I guess the big thing was, when I was hurt, I decided that I wanted to do some traveling.  I developed this desire during the time that I was hurt because that was what afforded me the time to do alot of reflection and realize what a sheltered life I had led up to that point.  I had no desire to travel when I was younger, but I do now (metal rod in my leg and bad right eye and all).  Between that and the example of friends of mine who have benefited from traveling abroad to Guyana, the Dominican Republic and Southeast Asia, I want to do some traveling and am currently researching and praying about how to do that.  Now, while the prospect of learning an obscure language that is spoken in the local community appealed to me at first, I have read alot about how actually moving to another country requires that you embrace, not only the language, but the culture as well.  My admittedly limited experience with both cultures locally has given me a fondness for one and an increasing discomfort with the other.  I met a Spanish speaking man at the aforementioned volunteer construction project and we were talking about learning other languages and he said something about how you have to "like speaking the langauge" if you are going to reach out like that.  Meaning that learning a few words and helping out locally is nice, but for bigger goals, you really have to embrace it.  The things that I have been learning about both cultures has drawn me away from one and towards the other.  Before, when I was complaining that Lao "wasn't clicking", I decided to stick with it, because I felt that was doing some good, but now I feel that it is incompatible with my current goals and have decided to focus on my desire to travel.  Spanish is spoken in more places.  I can watch most of the movies that I own in Spanish and I plan to do that with movies that I know by heart.  ("No!  Soy mi tu padre"---Darth Vader)  The appeal of studying an obscure language that is more useful in the real world than Klingon or Elvish has melted away and the practicality of my brain's limitations have led me to focus my efforts in another direction.  I applaud anyone who can pick it up and do well with it...and that is why I have tossed my YOU!!!

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