Our full time job these days is “National Culture and Language Acquisition.” I know, it’s a mouthful. Basically we are learning the language and culture. 🙂 This job is a big one. Sometimes we feel overwhelmed with how much we have to learn but most of the time it is exciting. It means we get to spend lots of time out with the people here, building relationships with them as they help us learn how to speak the trade language, called Tok Pisin.
Tok Pisin is actually a very simple language comparatively. We have been told that we can expect to speak it well in about six months, though it still requires hard work.
Not only are we learning the language, though. We are also learning PNG culture. People often misunderstand the relationship between language and culture. We are not merely learning to speak a new language, we are actually also learning to think in new ways, through the culture of the people we are seeking to communicate with. To neglect the culture when learning language would be a pretty huge mistake.
This week was our first week out acquiring culture & language on our own. We, along with Aimee (our fellow missionary friend and NCLA teammate) tried to be out with the people by 7am until 11am.
We walked around the villages and stopped at different hamlets (collection of a few houses) or single huts to talk with people who are willing to spend time with us. As an American the idea of doing something like this sounds CRAZY. In our culture we are so time oriented that to stop by a strangers house unannounced for an hour or two would be out of the question. Thankfully here in PNG it is not that way. The people here are very relational and love to have us come by and get to know them. Even though the people are very friendly, it is very awkward for us to be to so forward. I would love to tell you that when we walk up to a hut we are excited to be there but often it takes everything in us to keep from running in the opposite direction! 😀
After spending time out with the people we also have to process the data we gathered into our language learning software to be able to review it and then plan for the next day of getting out with the people.
Each day we learn a little bit more and that is very encouraging. It is difficult to be patient though and sometimes I do wish we could just skip forward several months in this learning process just to avoid how awkward it can be when we struggle to communicate.
For fun, here’s some samples of the language we have picked up so far:
- Moning = Good Morning
- Avinun = Good Afternoon
- Yu stap orait? = How are you doing?
- Wanem nem bilong yu? = What is your name?
- Yu go we? = Where are you going?
- Nem bilong mi Beth = My name is Beth.