Tag Archives: Language

Ahh language

When working with people using English as their second language there are plenty of opportunities to giggle at someone’s phrasing (not cruelly I promise!). There are also opportunities to get very confused, as I did today when revising a report. But then sometimes, maybe because the person isn’t as familiar with cliches, the nicest phrasing can happen.

My friend told me in an email today:

“Do you know sometime my baby touch me from inside and I can feel it”.

Doesn’t it send shivers up your spine?! This is the author’s fifth pregnancy so feeling a baby kick is probably not a new sensation, but just by using different words than we hear every day (I can feel the baby kicking) it sounds like magic!


How babies and language collide

Photos of babies have begun to filter through and I can’t wait to see them in real life.

But I must wait two weeks (12 days to be exact) until I go back to Australia for a short visit. This could very well be the longest 12 days of waiting (especially because work is busy with many laborious and pretty dull tasks before then). But two things this morning are making it OK to wait.

1. Beck has duly informed me of the madness at the hospital when 20 big and small people all try to fit into one hospital room. I don’t mind the idea of arriving when the storm has passed.

2. This morning I am finally enjoying Bahasa Indonesia.

I’ve learned one interesting thing about myself this year. I don’t like learning new languages. I can hear the gasps around the world as I admit this (especially damning for someone who is all about international relations). It seems that everyone, especially Australians who often haven’t learned a second language to fluency, longs for the opportunity to learn a new language, or relishes the opportunities they have. I’d assumed that I was the same…that hanging out in Paris, practicing ordering a croissant for 12 months sounded fun. But I’ve realised that I’d love eating the croissant but that I will learn the minimum language required to get it.

I thought I was just bad at learning languages, and I think it’s true to a point, because I always want to translate the English thoughts in my head, even if those thoughts include idioms that no one will understand, and I struggle if I can’t directly translate a sentence from the other language into English. But the truth is that I haven’t been too bad with Bahasa (although if I’d studied I would probably be fluent by now). No, the most limiting factor to my success with languages is laziness. At any given moment I would much rather convey my thoughts precisely rather than practice using a language I still don’t understand well. So if there is an English option I take it.

But this morning something was different. I was reading an email in Bahasa Indonesia which usually I would skim, or even copy and paste it into an online translator if it especially important and I was being especially lazy. But this morning I was feeling diligent and persisted with every word in an email that wasn’t even directly written to me. And I understood! I learned new words, clarified the meaning of few others and genuinely understood a reasonably complex discussion between two people! But the real breakthrough was this: I enjoyed reading and deciphering and understanding it! This has been the missing (crucial) link to my language study.

How does this make the wait to see babies easier? It means that the daily struggle of working in a second language is eased, and moments of frustration that inevitably lead to “I don’t want to be here I want be home playing with babies” are fewer and farther between.