Where's Allie?

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On learning languages

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“Confidence is crucial to language learning. Be firmly convinced you are a linguistic genius.” – Lomb Kato

I’ve always spoken English and French, and it took me about a week in Mexico before I was able to convincingly string a couple of sentences together in Spanish – now I like to think that I am fluent. I love the quote above, because that’s how I perceive myself. Whether or not it’s true, it certainly helps!

My goal has always been to speak 7 languages – French, English, Spanish, German, Russian, Japanese and Mandarin, in case you’re curious. I also want to learn Arabic, Italian, Portuguese and Swahili. So 11, I guess! Now that I’ve read this article, I’m more confident than ever that it’s an easy feat to accomplish. At my core, I’m just a big nerd, and an ideal evening is spent online, learning words in a new language, and figuring out how to put those words into sentences. I usually sound like I know what I’m doing too, because I seem to be pretty good at picking up accents. Whether or not I’m saying the right thing is a different story… but laughter goes a long way in that department.

I did NOT take this picture. But one day (soon) I will go to where I can.

This morning, I had a Tibetan language lesson – I am a volunteer for the Tibetan Resettlement Project, and I couldn’t be more excited. The language lessons are an added, unexpected bonus.

I can now confidently tell you that Hello, how are you? No, I do not want tea, bring me water/beer/food. The weather is cold, the house is hot. I speak a little bit of Tibetan. See you later, goodbye.

Here it is, in my own phonetic version, if you too want to pretend that you speak Tibetan.

Tashi deleg*, kusu dépo yin pé? Cha min du. Tujézik nga la chu/chang/kala nanro na. Namshi tangmo duk, kangpa tsapo duk. Nga peukè nyung nyung chigiyuk. Jellyoong, ka le shu**.

At first, we all thought that we sounded a little rude, because no one really says please or thank you. Our teacher explained that in the Tibetan language, the sentiment is implied. By nature, you are expected to be polite and thankful.

*Tibetan language fun fact #1 – Tashi deleg means ‘good luck’

**Tibetan language fun fact #2 – Ka le shu means ‘stay peacefully’

***Blog fun fact: I could be lying. This is what I learned in one hour today. I could be wrong about everything.

If you want to read more about my linguistic prowess, make sure to check out this blog post, to learn all about buying a half kilo of bananas at any market in Mali.

But I did take this picture. They thought I was ridiculous 🙂

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5 thoughts on “On learning languages

  1. Tibet is a dream for me too… It’s not getting easier to make it there though, especially over the past year or so, the requirements are just getting tougher & tougher to meet! If you go, let me know, sometimes, its required that we gather a certain number of persons from a same nationality and as Canadian too, we could be the start of a group 🙂
    Happy travels, Alex!

    • I didn’t even think of that! Good idea. I’ve met a couple of people through the resettlement project who’ve been, so hopefully they’ll have some insight too!

  2. wow great post. Im obsessed with languages. So much so that I get head aches from it. anyways, Im working on my 4th language, Haitian Creole right now

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