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Learning a Language | Field Notes Productions

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Learning a Language

3 Jun , 2011,
Willman
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I’m terrible with languages.

Research has shown that children exposed early in life to different dialects are able to learn languages more easily later in life. That gives me a small amount of comfort. As a kid I had a few weeks of French in 4th or 5th grade, and that’s it. In high school there were no language requirements, so of course I didn’t take one. Our family had no real ethnic identity, which meant we heard no foreign language at home. So my only real foreign language exposure involved listening to people with a southern Ohio accent, which while interesting isn’t quite the same thing. Hearing people saying “Booshis” instead of bushes isn’t going to tune the ear for the finer elements of, say, the French language.

All this means I struggle with languages now, and that’s a real impediment when living overseas.

The national language of Indonesia is called Bahasa. I’ve had sporadic lessons here, and have picked up some words and phrases. But the kids, with no formal lessons, know more.

Despite my overall ignorance though, I do enjoy languages. Especially when people have fun with words. Such is the case at a chain of convenience stores here. The fun is in the name.

The name of the store is “Tujuh Sebelas.” Those words are actually numbers. So the name of the store, in Bahasa, is translated as “7-11.” Of course, it’s a convenience store.

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