Learning the Cambodian language has been one of the most challenging things I've ever done. I never learned a secondary language in high school, so taking this on has been a new experience for me. I still wonder sometimes what my best approach to learning language is, because it seems so different, than let's say learning a topic like science or history. There seems to be so many moving pieces that have to fit together.
Looking past the challenge of it all, there is such a beautiful reward on the other end. It will be so exciting to be able to hold a solid conversation without being dependent on a translator. So far, I've been blessed with a community that can speak good English and I LOVE helping them develop their second language so that they can have more opportunity. Everyday life, however, is a different story. I can get around with small chit-chat, but I long to have normal conversation with my neighbor (who still thinks I'm French...lol) or be able to encourage kids while we go on family walks in the evening. And, most importantly, we have two growing boys -- one who is Cambodian and the other who thinks he is in many ways. LOL. We would love for them to be fluent in every way. So far I have managed to stay one step ahead of Aaron and it has been helpful to work with him on his homework in the evenings. Our hope is that this will encourage him to value this part of who God has created him to be and equip him for what God may have in store for the future.
I have two teachers and spend several days a week studying with them and then spend time studying on my own. Several months ago, I began learning how to read and write in addition to learning how to speak. This has helped tremendously in my pronunciation, but it also has slowed things down considerably. The Cambodian written language consists of script so learning the ins and outs, the rules, punctuation has been quite challenging. But there is something about it I love so much.
I thought I'd share a few facts about the language that you might find interesting. It was fun to compare to the English language when I learned these things.
The Khmer alphabet consists of 23 vowels and 33 consonants. Depending on the consonant used, the paired vowel may have a different sound. There is also a foot or subscript to each consonant that can be paired with any other consonant to make for some very confusing/hard-to-remember words! In addition, there are 14 independent vowels (I think). Lots of symbols to learn!
I've had my moments where I've felt discouraged, but I just remind myself...a little at a time. I wouldn't say learning a language is a natural gift for me, but I am thankful for the opportunity to do it.