More Twi

Accessing my limited vocabulary is becoming easier. I know enough to politely greet someone, and to ask some basic directions. It’s traveler’s language enough to make my way for a few days but what about the daily exchange of ideas, feelings and personal history? Will I learn the words needed for sharing and establishing relationships?

-vc

Interview

Long day getting to and from NYC yesterday. Every step I did not judge how much time it would take me to get where i needed to be. And those of you who know me well KNOW my blood pressure was up, I was tense cause I absolutely HATE to be late! I got to New Haven with 7 minutes to spare. I ran to the station and down to the train gates and just asked someone “what gate is the train to NYC?” Luckily I knew I could buy my ticket on the train. unluckily i could ONLY buy one way from the conductor. oh well live and learn.

Then I enjoyed a lesiurely lunch in Grand Central Station thinking 1/2 hour would be plenty of time to get to my destination. no such luck. so i was 10 minutes late. I did call ahead to let Andrew know I was coming but running late.

My favorite question was ‘Have you had any major change in your life in the past year.” Anyone who has grieved and read the self-help books knows why he asked that one!

Then we talked about where to draw the line with customs and behaviors you believe to be wrong. I talked to him about Mississippi and how I could not let my children join Girl Scouts because the troops were segregated. To me that was just the opposite of what I wanted Girl Scouts to teach my girls. I didn’t preach against it. I didn’t try to change the culture because I knew I was not going to live there any longer than i had to. I let my example and my actions speak for me.

Andrew was very open and encouraging through the whole interview. He said that older volunteers have experience and age that bring them more respect than the younger volunteers even if the language and cultural changes often come harder for the older volunteers. I said I imagined the 3 months of language training would be awful followed by the real learning when I got to my site. I figure my new community and I will have a few laughs over my learning curve. He told a funny story on himself. He said the word in Nepal for book and fart are practically indistinguishable to an American. So the first day of teaching his new class he stood up and said “let’s fart this book!”

Another interesting thing I learned is that you can have a class of students write to you and your community while you are there. I would love it if my granddaughters class could do that. She will be 1/2 way or almost all the way through Kindergarten when I go. That would be so cool for both of us.

Thank you friends and family for all the good wishes for my interview and placement. I agree with the one who said “hope they can give you a placement that’s surprising and satisfying”. I’ll let you know when I get the email with placements in them. Tomorrow, Thursday July 5th late in the day.

-vicky

My response to Mandela’s thoughts

What part of Nelson Mandela’s story do you find inspiring?

Nelson Mandela could very well have said that the Afrikaners were the enemy and he would not speak their language.  Instead he choose to see them as fellow humans.  I know the people I will be living with are not the enemy but westerners can bring a feeling of superiority when they travel overseas. I plan to bring Mandela’s  spirit friendship and openness when  I am overseas.

I love the quote about speaking to someone in his language. When I was in Paris on matter how badly I mangled the French or stumbled for the words I felt that the people responded to my attempt to speak to them in their language.  And in return I responded with a smile when the owner of a small caves spoke to my daughter and I in English or the taxi driver said “I speak English”.

What is the value of learning a foreign language?

Learning a new language helps you to learn the culture.  The words of a culture teach you what is important to the culture.  Although the story about Inuits having 100 or 200 or 300 words for snow may be an myth, they certainly have more words for snow than we do. That says snow is important to them. When we lived in Mississippi my husband, at the time, said to someone “It smells like snow”.  That phrase was totally foreign to the person from MS but any New Englander would know immediately what my ex meant, that snow was on the way.  And it did snow that evening.  You can’t know a culture without knowing it’s language.

I don’t think you can become part of the culture without know the language. You miss so much when you don’t speak the language of the culture you are living in. Part of my Peace Corps experience will be to immerse myself in the culture and I feel I can hardly do that without knowing the language.

How do you feel about learning and using a foreign language as a Peace Corps Volunteer?

It will be a fun challenge. I have always loved languages and would love to go somewhere and immerse myself in a new language. In fact I was slightly disappointed when people in France were so willing to talk English.  I can imagine my new neighbors and myself laughing at my gaffs and baby steps at speaking in a new language but I can also imagine becoming fluent and truly having a second language.

If I had my choice I’d choose French because of my High School background and because I love the language. However I am probably do not have that much of an advantage with my HS  French nor because I listened  to two drive and learn programs before I went to Paris!

Language will be another part of this amazing journey I hope to take.

-vicky

Nelson Mandela on Learning Language

 
“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” – On Nelson Mandela and Learning Afrikaans
Well, Nelson was very serious about… learning to understand the Afrikaner… [I]n his mind… the Afrikaner was an African… [W]hatever solution there was going to be on the political issues was going to involve Afrikaans people. They… were part and parcel of the land… [T]hey had grown up and… had a history in the country, which [Nelson] wanted to understand. [He] put a lot of work and effort in learning to speak Afrikaans and to use it… He had absolutely no qualms about greeting people in Afrikaans and about trying his Afrikaans out on the warders. [Nelson] wanted to really get to know Afrikaners, as part of the people who belonged to the country.

Now that you’ve learned about Nelson Mandela’s motivations for language learning, your next step is to process your own thoughts about the subject.

From Peace Corps training materials.