I know this question has come to my mind when I ponder when I last updated you here. So here I am to rectify that!
Things have been in constant flux and motion with our language sessions so I have been feeling a bit more discombobulated these past two weeks.
I am at a very different place of learning than what I was when I took this course in 2012. Then I was a new learner wanting to soak up all the language I could so that I could understand and be understood. Now, I find that while I can get my ideas and thoughts across most of the time (usually I just keep talking until the thought is communicated! Haha!) it can be pretty confusing with very poor grammar. I have been asked why I am in the class again since in the hearer’s opinion I speak as well as others who have been here longer. But as I told them, I want to speak like a “Hailans meri tru” (Eastern Highlands native woman). One of those in my language class recently told one of our national teachers that he wanted to stand behind her and speak and she have no idea he was not PNG until she looked at him. She laughed. Admirable but I have a feeling that this may be a lifetime endeavor we are embarking on here.
This time around, though I am refreshing my vocabulary, I am working more on putting sentences in correct order, fluency of sound, and using correct pronouns (which though clear in my mind somehow gets confused on its way out of my mouth!). I am transcribing (writing out in Tok Pisin) the story I have recorded until I’ve heard all the words and correctly spelled them all. While this sounds complicated, Tok Pisin is really a truly phoenetic language–sounding it out and spelling it exactly like it sounds. (Which, by the way, why is the word “phoenetic” not phoenetic?!)
This learning is not only in the classroom but out and about it our neighborhood. Our neighbors are very patient in answering our questions and helping us learn. Most people are happy that you are wanting to learn to their trade language and wanting to help you succeed. Most of them are also patient in waiting for your slow “raba” (rubber) tongue to spit out a simple sentence. Then smiling and nodding and giving you the answer. I did however believe that I was wearing out the patience of a woman the other day because whenever I would pause to find the words she’d fill in the blanks…for every sentence…haha!
I have spent the majority of today transcribing and find I now have to keep going back and correcting my spelling to English so that you can read this! I guess it is sinking in!
So how do I know when I’ve learned “enough”? There is a tool created to evaluate what level we are communicating at and what we still need to work on. We are coming up on one of those tests in the next 2 weeks or so. My goal is to be high progressing in both language and culture so that I can have the language to disciple in Tok Pisin. As one of our instructors has told us, true communication takes not only the fluency of language but knowing what thoughts that talk is causing in the mind of the other. A fellow missionary recently shared an exerpt from his personal reading which challenged us to “see Jesus Christ become sovereign in every heart” we encounter throughout our day. That is the joy and desire of my heart! That every heart may see Jesus as sovereign! To this end, I will continue to plug away.