Saturday, September 24, 2005

Kyrgyz language day

Yesterday, after a long day of running between the university and the seminar I'm interpreting, I flopped on the couch to watch the evening news. It turned out that September 23 was the Kyrgyz Language Day and it suddenly dawned on me that it's been a long, long time since I last updated the blog.

So here is the update. All of a sudden I have an excellent opportunity to practice Kyrgyz for real (I now wish I'd spent more time actually studying the language!). I am leaving on Monday to spend five days in some remote village, mingling with the locals and trying to overcome the language barrier. Very exciting but also very intimidating.

I think it is very important to become comfortable with the new language during the first stages of language learning. I find that if I spend some time simply absorbing the language, after a while it ceases to be something "foreign".

This can be done in a variety of ways. When you listen to conversations, audio recordings, or news on television let go of the thought that you don't understand. Learn to appreciate the natural flow of the language and take it all in. Casually browse through a dictionary to see if anything catches your eye. Read some texts without the pressure of trying to decipher their meaning.

This advice may seem strange, but it helps a lot. Once you are comfortable with the language, you are a long way toward mastering it. Once you stop focusing on what you don't know or don't understand, you free your mind to actually learn something.


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