Language has been a big part in my life. It has allowed me to navigate cultures and communities easier - as I was confident in the meals I ordered in Chinatown in New York or asking for directions in Hong Kong. This week marks a full month of Khmer language learning in Cambodia. Going to language learning three times a week for an hour session each was nothing but humbling. I had almost forgotten the special relationships and connections created when the language used to communicate is the native language of the other party.
Less than a 10 minute bike ride away is the 'Chinese Noodle Restaurant'. With prices less than $1.80 - you can get your pick of hand-drawn noodles, twelve dumplings and other dishes - they're a legit Chinese restaurant. It has been one of my favorite places to go - for one shallow reason - language. The boss-lady speaks Mandarin. When the meal is over, I like to pull out my Mandarin and ask her for the bill - pack-up leftovers & then question her why our bill is so high! In the mist of it all - my heart does a little fluttering because I know in the deepest of my heart that she understands perfectly what I am saying. In exchange, I understand her body language, her spoken language and her "I'm not impressed with your Chinese" facial expression. All of it makes me so giddy and happy inside because I know, we - get each other.
I am looking forward to the day when I can build relationships & communicate with Khmers using Khmer and know, we - get each other.
The other day, my Khmer tutor taught me how to ask someone how many languages they spoke. He told me to respond to his question - and I merely stated English and Chinese. He corrected me and said - "I speak Chinese, English and a little Khmer" and told me to repeat after him. I guess, if your tutor thinks you should be telling people that you can speak Khmer...then you really can speak Khmer?! #cupofpride