Language frustrations

            In Cambodia, it was generally understood that we did not speak the same language. Communication was done mostly through pointing and grunting (and sometimes tasting, when we wanted to make sure we were getting salt instead of sugar).

It made lessons with the kids sometimes difficult. I’d demonstrate that I wanted them to read the letters aloud when I pointed to the letters. The kids were confused at first, but after much gesturing and demonstrating the kids caught on quickly.

In Uganda, all the kids speak English. It has made communication much easier, but also way more difficult in unexpected ways. I thought the accent was going to be a large barrier, but that’s been one of the smaller ones for me.

My biggest problem are the subtle differences in terms used. And when you ask to clarify the phrase, it is repeated with the exact same terminology but with a clearer voice.

For example on my first day of teaching at Kasese Humanist Primary School, one of the students asked for a “short call”

“What?” I didn’t hear him clearly.

“short call”

Okay, so I did hear the student correctly. “What is that?”

One of the students chimed in with “Madam, he asked for a short call”

I was still confused at this point, so I just let him go. I later learned that it meant he was asking to use the restroom.

It’s small things like that.

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