The second part of our language acquisition training was learning to work effectively with language helpers.
Language helpers might be any number of people — from our neighbors, to vendors in the marketplace, to a tutor. Hopefully, we’ll engage all of those people (and more) as we learn Khmer over our first term in the field. And now, after our training, we have a plethora of tools and techniques to use with them — ways to engage our entire body (as one instructor told us “do it with vigor, and it will stick better!”), tailored to unique learning styles, and focused on different parts of the language (comprehension, pronunciation, grammar).
Learning these techniques is one thing — but we also got to put them into practice. Laura was assigned Mandarin as a practice language, working with Barbara. I was assigned to Marathi (a language in western India), working with Vasant. Both are native speakers who now live in Colorado and volunteer to teach missionaries how to learn their languages.
Now, I wouldn’t say that either of us can speak either of those languages at all. We didn’t spend enough time to learn more than a few words and phrases. (Also, as Laura points out, Mandarin is a much, much more difficult language). But we definitely can recognize some! And more importantly, we head to our year of language school and learning equipped and encouraged — we don’t know how to say much yet, but we will soon!