Monday, March 16, 2015

Back to basics

“Je suis cool
Tu et cool
Nous sommes Aqua KOOL!”

…proclaimed the billboard in Kinshasa. “Look, it’s a grammar lesson on a billboard. How convenient!” Bob observed as we rode by in a taxi. We arrived in Kinshasa last week, and will spend four weeks in intensive French language learning. We had to come anyway to renew our residence visas, and it felt like a good opportunity to improve our minimal French.

So, we now have 2 young women who come every morning to the house where we are staying, and spend 3 hours teaching us French. Because we have different levels of French, each of us meets separately with a teacher. The teacher provides material and instruction according to her view of what would be best. However, we have realized that the downside of this is that we may learn words or forms that we don’t find particularly useful. For example, Bob’s teacher wanted to start with body parts…so Bob can tell you the word in French for eyebrow and the bone/knob that sticks out on the outside of your ankle (what is that in English??). But when is he going to use that? I can tell you the word for cigarette butt (megot), but can’t ask the guard to take out the trash.

We have seen God answer prayers already in providing the teachers he did for us. We trust and pray that He will also help us to  provide suggestions to our teachers and communicate our goals in a way that this month really is useful for our ministry here. Learning a language is often challenging, frustrating, and tedious. We sometimes feel nervous and ashamed being in such a Francophone city like Kinshasa and stumbling to say basic phrases. We depend on the patience and grace of our teachers and the people we interact with to help us communicate. French feels complicated and our tongues often struggle to accommodate the strange sounds in French.

No, you can’t get proficient in a language in just a month. But if we can just get a foundation, we hope to continue learning when we return to Kananga, although at a slower pace. We will continue using Tshiluba as our primary language for communicating in Kasai. But we have found that French would be helpful for some of the meetings we are part of, utilizing resources in French here, and for communicating when we travel to other regions of Congo.

On y va! Here’s to another adventure in learning to communicate!

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