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Language and learning #1 August 16, 2011

Posted by P, J, or J in Uncategorized.
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Right now we are busy learning a new language. Actually, those words could be easily misinterpreted – the language itself isn’t new, it has been around for a while (although like most languages it is constantly changing but that’s another story).

Languages are incredibly tricky things. They are hard to learn, hard to use, hard to pin down, impossible to count, and very easy to miscommunicate in, once you’ve at least half learnt some of the basic vocabulary and grammar.

The one I’m learning to miscommunicate in right now is Bahasa Malaysia. The other day in our language learning class I was trying to say “My wife has a headache. I hope it goes away soon. The word for “my” or “I” is “saya”. The word for “wife” is “isteri” the word for “head” is “kepala”. (not to be confused with “kelapa” which means coconut). “Ache” or “pain” is “sakit”

I strung the words together somehow but  wondered what I might be saying. Here are a few possible ways of combining words I almost know. 

  • Isteri saya mempunya sakit kepala. Saya harap ia pergi segera.
  • Isteri saya ada sakit kepala. Saya harap dia pergi segera .
  • Saya ialah sakit kepala untuk isteri saya. Dia harap saya pergi segera.
  • Isteri saya sakit di dalam kepala. Di harapan saya pergi.

Here is what those sentences might mean (but I’m not making any promises)

  • My wife has a headache. I hope it goes soon.
  • My wife is a headache. I hope she goes soon.
  • I am my wife’s headache. She hopes I go.
  • My wife is sick in the head. In the hope that I go.

 In the coming months we will be able to confuse and unintentionally upset many people using Bahasa Malaysia.  Meanwhile we still do most of our miscommunication in English. We are incredibly grateful that many people we meet are highly fluent in English and many others have learnt more English than we have Bahasa Malaysia. We need to remember that for those still learning, mistakes are as easy to make in the hearing as in the speaking.

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