Sunday, December 11, 2011

Language Learning and Idols

Our Language Helpers.  The girl on the left is our nurturer for phase 1, and the girl on the right is the Tardy's phase 2 nurturer.

In my last post, I shared the "facts" of our language learning.  In this post, I want to vulnerably share some of my "emotions" of language/culture  learning.

Everyone knows that situations that break us out of our comfort zones cause both stress and growth.  Stressful growth..not my favorite thing.  Many of the things I am learning about myself are not pretty, they are in fact sinful and ugly...please don't judge me  :)    God has been showing me places of my heart that he wants to change (and Ryan has been used in that process as in we had a small intervention after I cried multiple days in a row).

These are a couple things I am learning:

1.  I hate the word dumb.  I don't want to say dumb things, I don't want people to think I am dumb, I don't want to look dumb, I don't want my language teachers to think I am dumb, I don't want the other Americans in my class to think I am dumb, pretty much I don't want my name and the word dumb anywhere in the same sentence.

The root of this is definitely pride and in my own culture and language I could nicely hide this ugly pride, but not putting myself into situations where I had to face the fact that I might look dumb.  However, pretty much everytime I try to speak Hindi, I appear dumb.  So I am face to face with my gross pride.

2.  I want people to like me.  I need people to like me.  If people don't like me it deeply disturbs me and makes my stomach hurt.  This is pretty problematic here because although I usually think I can read people pretty well, being in a new culture with a totally different language kinda throws that reading people stuff out the window.  Sometimes you smile at someone and they glare back at you, or sometimes you smile at someone and then they smile back...but wait maybe they are laughting at you.  At this point there is really no way for me to know if someone likes me or not, and it drives me a little crazy.

After about 2 weeks of all these things bubbling at the surface of my emotions and Ryan bearing the brundt of my stress.  I hate how we take our stress out on the people who deserve it the least!  Ryan and I had a long talk(well I cried/talked he listened/talked and came to the heart of it all.

The truth is I have approval issues.  I want man's approval.  I think I need man's approval to make me feel okay.  Tim Keller (one of my favorite pastor/teachers) has written a book called "Counterfiet Gods" and he talks about things that become idols in our lives.  These idols consume us and we do everything we can to satisfy them.  I have the idol of approval.  At the loss of other things like reading my bible, praying, being nice to Ryan...I had to study!  I had to make sure I was doing good with language because that is how I was finding approval.  Yeah, really gross.

Thankfully, the good news is the gospel!  GOD actually approves of me(really God the all knowing, all powerful) he approves of me, not if I do well at language or if a lot of people like me or if I do not appear dumb.  He appproves of me because Jesus covered me with his sacrifice.  Jesus took all the disapproval, hate, consequences of not being good enough...he took all that and he took the punishment for it.  God looks at me and he approves of me.  That is pretty world shaking and I was totally not meditating on that truth.  Instead, I was trying to satisfy some stupid approval idol and it was killing me. (and Ryan!)

It was bad, but God's patience and refining is good.

It is not all gone, even as I write this I think about how I should be studying(even thought I already studied for the amount of time I said I was going to study today).....If only my eyes stayed continually focused on Jesus.

PS  I think studying is good and important.  But, it is good and important so I can learn to speak Hindi and learn this culture, NOT so that I will not appear dumb or so that people will like me.  There is a big different in these two.  One is totally about me, and one is about other people.

Well, this is really long.  I hope somehow my craziness can encourage someone out there  :)

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Language Learning the details

We have finished two weeks (50 hours) of our Hindi/Urdu language program and we are FLUENT!  Haha yeah right :)  That would be awesome if it was true....

The program we are using is called the Growing Participator Approach.  It is based on the process children naturally learn language.  Children learn by lots of exposure and repetition and are able to understand much more than they are able to speak.

It is based on the idea that  language works in our brain like an ice-burg as we develop.  Children have heard thousands of words, commands, ect by the time they are a year old.  So they understand a lot, but the tip of the ice-burg(what they are able to communicate verbally) is still very small.  As they develop, the words under the water of the ice-burg naturally begin to come to the surface and eventually you have a toddler who is chatting away.  I know any of you that have children have seen this happen.  One month your child can only say a few words, then a few moths later it seems like they are talking up a storm!

So what do we actually do in order to learn a new language in that way??  Well, the first week and a half we didn't speak at all.  Our language nurturer(use the word nurturer- like a parent with a child) speaks to us only in Hindi/Urdu and shows us pictures/objects that are common things we see or use everyday.  She tells us to sit, stand, walk, run, jump and we watch her do it and then try to mimic what she does by the words she uses as she does these actions.   We do many activities with lots of repetition.

The first week we were exposed to around 400 new words.  This doesn't mean we "know" these words or can speak them, but we are beginning to recognize them when used.

The last half of our second week, we began to speak.  We did not learn as many new words, but began to try to use the words we had been hearing repeatedly.  So we told each other to sit, stand, jump, point to the (...) picture/object.

We are in phase one"Here-and-Now Phase", which will last one month.  So for a few more weeks we will continue to use words we have been learning and add new words to the ice-burg :)  The goal is to learn 800-1,000 words in phase 1.  Research shows that if you have around  10,000 words  in a language you are fluent.

After phase 1, we will move on to phase 2 "Story Building Phase" and it will last 2 months.  Then we will move to Kanpur and begin phase 3!

Ryan and I are enjoying this approach so far, but it is HARD WORK!  I am not sure I have ever used my brain this much....EVER!  I am amazed by people that speak multiple languages....

All the objects we learned our first week!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Not that Different

There are so many things about this culture that are different and new it can often feel overwhelming at times. It is easy to focus on differences, but I really don't want to be that person.  I want to be a person that looks for bridges and ways to understand and connect.  The other night I was gently reminded that even if people grow up in totally different worlds there are some things that remain the same.....

I have met a lady(Yasmeen) here and she is teaching me to read and write Hindi(the script).  She has been married for 3 years and is 30.  I have been married for 2 years and am 29.  I thought these would be our main points of sameness, but I have been surprised that we have much more in common.  I have been praying the God would give me a sense of home in the midst of foreign and that God would help me feel like I have a connection with some women here.  God is so good and is answering both of those prayers.

The other night I was talking with Yasmeen about her weekend.  I asked her what she does on the weekends and she told me they are pretty much the same as all the other days of the week.  Nothing really special happens.  Then she got this sparkle in her eye and said, "But when I go visit my mother's house(she will go in March) everyday is special!  My mother makes everything special for me."  Then we talked about how much we love and miss our mothers.  It was a sweet time with her and a great reminder of what a blessing my own mother is to me.  My Mom has and will always be one of my best friends, and she somehow has the ability to make me feel that she cares about all the details of my life.  "She makes everything special for me." ......  So, I guess we are not that different after all  :)