A Money-Mouth Situation

somalia-days (Photo credit: burningmax)

As I just moved to Minnesota, my linguistic situation has changed dramatically.  Significantly, I’m personally confronting some of the major topics I blog about: overcoming fear and learning languages in everyday situations.  Time for me to put my money where my mouth is. Despite a good situation, fear is impeding my language progress.  I moved to the ‘burbs in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, but within 48 hours of arriving, I found that three doors down lives a Persian family from Tehran.  And they don’t speak English so well.  I’d been excited about such a situation in the abstract; now, in the concrete, I’m afraid.  The typical questions go through my head: What will I say?  What can we talk about after the first 5 minutes?  In our first exchange I feel like I already went beyond what I’m able to do.

I know the solution, though I haven’t acted yet–Just go talk to them, ask “What?” a lot, learn something.  These people were so excited to meet me on that first day, and demonstrated typical Persian hospitality.  When words didn’t work, they held my hand and patted my back.  By getting over my fear I will do everyone a favor.

I’m really excited to start a new language: Somali.  In my new job, the opportunity has arisen to learn Somali in everyday conversation.  The system is working well.  I’m starting by using phrases I can use multiple times a day.  I learned how to say “Good morning,” but not “Good evening,” because I don’t see him in the evening.  I asked how to say, “How was your weekend?” because that will come up more times.  Because we’re doing IT work, I learned to say, “Is the computer ready?” and “Are you ready?  Let’s go!” as we move from task to task.  Then he taught me, “Wait a minute!”  So we have mini conversations every day.  So even though my vocabulary is small, I maximized the practical.  I cannot say, “The table is yellow,” because we have no yellow tables in our office.  So far, so good.

A lingering danger is the plateau.  I’m at the plateau in Farsi, and am losing motivation.  I’m in the early, quick-learning stages of Somali, so I’m easily motivated.  I need to focus on staying motivated in Farsi as I pick up Somali.

Any suggestions for staying motivated?  (I know that’s supposed to be my job, but any help is appreciated.)

7 thoughts on “A Money-Mouth Situation

  1. Somali – wow! Re motivation – I’ve been thinking about the same kind of things recently. It can be frustrating at the intermediate stage where you know enough for the novelty to have worn off, but don’t know enough to converse or read with ease. I find it difficult to find level-appropriate material at that level, too. I’m kind of going through the same stage with Chinese.

    I’m in no position to give you any advice on staying motivated as I can’t seem to do it myself lately, but you say that the Persian family don’t speak English very well. They might be keen to improve, so once you get to know them a bit better, you could suggest a twice monthly dinner/language exchange evening or something like that?


    1. Somali is less “wow” here in Minnesota. I found a book that called it “Mogadishu on the Mississippi.” It’s a widely-spoken language here.

      I think commiserating in our frustration can help keep us motivated. I’ll cheer you on if you cheer me on, OK?


  2. I think the way you are attacking Somali is fabulous.

    Your unrealistic expectations for yourself are killing your motivation to learn Persian. Accept the fact that you can’t converse freely quite yet and don’t expect yourself to. I looked up the word for “intermediate” in German and found “fortgeschrittener Anfänger” (advanced beginner for those of you who don’t know German). It sounds like that’s what you are. Embrace it.

    Continue to approach Persian in a somewhat segmented way. Unrealistic expectations kill motivation. Instead, have more five minute conversations about different subjects. “I see your rain gutters don’t fill up like mine, what do you do?” Prepare a little before you knock on the door. Even if you don’t understand everything they say, pat yourself on the back for being able to follow the conversation. As long as you are pushing yourself and progressing, you’re golden.


    1. Amen! Thanks for the motivational advice. I’m absolutely stuck between “advanced” and “beginner.”

      I’m going to break up the conversations into little chunks. And, indeed, it rained today–so I can use your template 🙂


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