Sunday, May 21, 2006

Language Blunders

Well, they say that everyone cries at least once during language study. . . My time almost came this past week. Maybe I should have gave in and had it over with. The problem is, we were at the city council building in our city for a meeting with the governer. We had received a call just the day before inviting us to come, although the purpose wasn't disclosed. We showed up to the meeting and joined 25 or so other foriegners, all currently residing in Darhan. They had all shown up with their translators and pens and paper. We did our best to listen and to read the agenda given to us when we entered the room. A collegue had brought his language teacher who speaks very little English, but she translated a little for us. The meeting was a very exciting opportunity for us, to meet the governer, meet others working in the city and to get a little outside-the-classroom experience under our belts. This summer our city will celebrate its 45th anniversary and the country will celebrate its 800th anniversary. The governer was explaining the projects and celebrations planned to mark these special dates. Basically what he wanted from us was our whole-hearted participation. There are currently 18 countries represented in Daarhan with 211 foriegners residing. We (each country) have been given 15 minutes at a celebration next month to share about our country and its traditions. They also want us to make introductions and explain why we are here--create an accurate public awareness. What awesome opportunities!!! Of course, it wouldn't be Mongolian if a competition was absent. The best foreigner to sing a Mongolian song will recieve a prize.
Well, the meeting came to a close and we were asked to introduce ourselves. I began to be nervous. Most everyone else had the translator do the job. We were sitting around a table like you would see in the UN--microphones at each seat. We were asked to turn on the mics and introduce. I wasn't able to sit next to Jeremy for moral support; he, by the way, did terrific. It came to be my turn. . . First my name, then the organization I was representing, finally how long I had been in the country. Now, those of you who are mothers will understand this blunder. Many of my conversations in Mongolian revolve around my children. I am always asked their ages, if they go to school, etc, etc. When it came time for my final sentence, instead of saying I had come to Mongolia almost nine months ago, I bascially said I came to Mongolia as an almost 11 month old!!!!!! Needless to say I am asked an awful lot about my almost 11-month-old, Johanna. At first I hadn't realized what I had done, until the language teacher next to me pointed it out. I was humiliated! I tried to convince myself that no one but me would remember five minutes later, that it was a good experience for me to be reminded of why I am still doing homework and going to class as a 29 year old (that is, of the importance of learning the language). I tried to remind myself of what an awesome opportunity it was to even be invited there. All that said, I also conclude that it is great to be reminded of the greatness of God and the littleness of me. It hurts sometimes, but it ends up being an encouragement in the end. The world does not rest on my shoulders, but on greater ones.
By the way, in a previous out-of-classroom encounter, a recorded interview for listening practice, I was accussed of being a spy come to seek out Mongolian land and resources and take them for my country. These people have had a long history of being trampled on, I pray we in no way contribute to more of the same.

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