Thirst for culture and language is a large part of who I am. During my time in China, my favorite class was language class and learning the characters of Mandarin. Over the years I have spent some time trying to make sense of Russian. I will never forget the trip to Kurlovo in Russia when I’d picked up enough phrases to make it sound like I spoke fluent Russian. Little Dima got in my face and just kept jabbering. I think I understood every 10th word. When I said in Russian, “I don’t speak Russian!” He told me “Yes, you DO!” And thought I’d created a new game to play. Ha!
And now I find myself having spent enough time learning and submerged in Creole that I can translate small conversations between visiting Americans and the kids in the villages. Emphasis on SMALL conversations. However, definitely at the point the kids think I speak more than I actually speak and tell me all sorts of things I have not a clue what they are really saying. Contractions in Haitian slang will be the death of me!
But the key to all of this is practice. I spent almost seven years learning French in school and university, but could not have kept a conversation going even if someone held a gun to my head!
Really great practice for me is when a lot of the kids like to test me. Lovesonnes is on a color phase, and yesterday he kept at me with saying a color in English and I would tell him the Creole word. Easy. I know my colors well! Then we switched to animals. Not so good there!
One of the things I cherish most at the villages is knowing the kids. One of my friends has been sick for a couple of weeks. Tacura has slowly been healing, and yesterday was the first day in a while that he was completely back to his highly energetic, goofy, lovable self. He was on my back and would shimmy up to where he could rest his head on my shoulder and put his cheek next to mine with our ears pressed together so it sounded like I was in a tunnel when I talked. Then he was acting like he was driving a car and squealing like a horn…in my ear. Good thing we have a good friendship and I know how sick he’s been, or that screaming *might* have been annoying.
At one point he asked to go to the cafeteria and we sat in a quiet corner where he started asking me questions in Creole. He knows my language limits and phrases things so I understand him. It was precious time spent with my friend, but also excellent practice for my language skills.
Before we left last night, a new American friend was holding Onelson…who was almost asleep. Everyone else is getting on the bus and she looked at me with the question of “Do I just put him down?” We took him to his room where he decided he wasn’t that sleepy, as toddlers do, and kept saying, “No!”
Tacura thought this was hilarious, but they live in the same room, so this was not new to him. Soon, Onelson was out and dead weight. Tacura immediately, started pulling the American’s arm while tip toeing making hilarious contortions with his face down the room length, simultaneously holding his finger to his lips…the international sign of please shut up. I hadn’t seen that animation in his face and eyes in weeks, as I stood in the doorway I couldn’t help but smile at this sweet scene that transcended language barriers.
Language barriers have never bothered me, and I fully acknowledge I am unique in that trait. I find myself so thankful for practice with my American friends, and translators who get that I am at the point where I am just going to go for it and say the sentence in Creole that they will need to correct.
But even more so, I love the quiet, memorable moments of when I practice language with the small friends in my life that speak Russian and Creole…all because it leads to a deepening of trust and being known within the relationships God is nurturing.