Tag Archives: language

The Struggle

I’m about to tie two unlikely things together – my experience working at the Deaf Center in Utah, USA and my experience living in Iasi, Romania.

I used to work at the Sanderson Community Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing in Taylorsville, Utah. Before, that, I was a volunteer there, which ended up just developing into a job! I loved it.

So many times, I would be working at an event, and there were volunteers that were ASL (American Sign Language) students. Most of them didn’t know that I’m hearing – they usually thought I was Deaf for some reason.

One particular instance illustrates this perfectly. There were two girls who were ASL students from a local college, I don’t remember which one. I could tell that they had a question for me, but weren’t sure how to ask me in ASL. I totally eavesdropped as they slowly walked up behind me…they were talking about how to sign their question. They tapped me on the shoulder and I turned around and signed “Hey, what’s up?”

They then proceeded to sign “We are here to volunteer and…” and then they looked at each other, and I could tell they didn’t know how to sign what they wanted to say next. So, I guided them through the conversation (I knew what they wanted because I heard them talking about it as they walked up to me) as I signed them in and started to tell them where they were assigned to volunteer. I could tell that they were completely lost when they kept glancing at each other and whispering the few signs they understood me signing. I could tell it wasn’t working for them, and after a little bit I ended up just saying “Or we can just talk, I am hearing.” I could see their bodies relax as they gave a nervous laugh and I began speaking to them in English, telling them were they were assigned to volunteer.

Things like that happened multiple times. Both while I was at work at the Deaf Center, and while I was the volunteer coordinator for some events for Sego Lily Center for the Abused Deaf. So many times.

NOW, let’s relate that to my experience here in Romania so far.

I am really trying to learn Romanian. I know I could probably devote more time to sitting down and studying the language, but I am doing what I can with the time that I have. I promise.

I was at a shop the other day and I was trying to ask an employee a question. She was watching me struggle as I used a weird mixture of Romanian, English, and gestures/ASL (sometimes I revert back to ASL when English/Romanian isn’t working out for me, and gestures when ASL isn’t working, either). She spoke Romanian back to me, and I understood some of it, but I was mostly lost, so I did my weird mixture of languages again. She sort of smiled, and then said “I speak English, what do you need?” And my body and brain totally began to relax as I asked her my question, and got an answer.

However, I do not always get that relief. Usually I just have to be left in a state of confusion.

So now, I feel that I am those ASL students that would struggle to communicate with me at the Deaf Center and other events. Except…I don’t always have the ever-so-welcome relief of someone saying “I speak English.”

The moral of the story?

When you are in a situation where you have to use the language you are learning, it’s a relief to discover that the person you are talking to speaks a language you know very well…even if they do get a little bit of pleasure out of letting you struggle for a little bit first.

It is through struggling and making mistakes that we learn.

And I love it. 

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One Week of Learning

Bună ziua (hello)! I’ve been in Romania for almost a week now, and here is a bit of what I’ve learned so far:

1. Streets don’t need names displayed.

You can just use landmarks. We were walking on the streets in Iasi with our Romanian friend, we’ll call her Mary, and she was showing us how to get somewhere. She said something like “when you get to this street, you turn left.” I asked her what the name of the street was and she said “I don’t know, you just turn left here at this building.” Then I noticed that there were no street signs, so I asked her about them. She said “It’s not like there in America with fancy street names you can read. Sometimes you will see a street name on a building, but you don’t need them.” And she was right! It’s been a week and we’ve figured out how to go many places, just by using landmarks.

2. Trams don’t need flashing lights.

Just be aware! Right outside my window there is a big traffic circle, with tracks running right through it. When a tram comes, it just comes and cars have to notice it. And they do! I haven’t seen an accident yet! And when you are walking, you walk right across them, and if you see a tram coming, you just have to stop. Even kids know this – I saw two young girls walking around, and they looked, stopped, and waited for the tram to pass before they crossed. Yes, they were standing very close to it, but still. No flashing lights to warn them, they just knew. We just need to be observant. I think that’s how it should be.

Iasi Tram

3. Make linguistic mistakes.

I told my Romanian neighbor and friend, Bianca, that we had onions and pepper for dinner…not what I meant to say. I couldn’t figure out why she was laughing, until she was able to collect herself and explain it to me….boy, that would’ve been disgusting! It took me less than 24 hours to make my first real Romanian linguistic mistake…it took me about a year in ASL. Romanian is hard!

4. ASL is not a substitute for Romanian.

I am struggling to learn Romanian, even though I am practicing every day. When I am out and about, I find myself using ASL (American Sign Language) when I don’t know the Romanian word for something…not my best tactic, I know. It turns out alright, though…I start with English, then pause as I try to think of the Romanian word. During that pause, I use ASL, and when I see that it’s going nowhere, I use gestures, which seems to work itself out. I just really need to learn Romanian….fast!

5. Skittles taste better in Romania. And so does chocolate.

My friend Emily said that the US probably has some FDA regulation about candy tasting too good. I might have to agree. I mean, why does European chocolate ALWAYS taste better than American? It’s just not fair. At least I can enjoy it while I’m here. And the Skittles…I don’t know how to describe it, but let’s just say they have a more intense flavor. 

6. American music is popular worldwide.

I didn’t realize how far American music travels! At the mall on our first day, we heard songs from Taylor Swift, Kelly Clarkson, Carly Rae Jepsen, and people I don’t even know, but I know the songs. Oh, and most of the songs aren’t censored. Also, at the orphanage we are volunteering at, they have the radio on. The DJs are talking in Romanian, but playing American songs in English. I was pretty excited when Return to Innocence by Enigma came on, that’s for sure!

7. Not everything needs to be told.

Some people asked me to update my blog all the time about everything I do. First of all, ain’t nobody got time for that. Second thing, you don’t have time to read that. Third, I want to keep some of these experiences between me, the other people who are here with me, and my journal. Not everything needs to be told. Yes, I will update y’all about what is going on in general, or specific trips that I make. However, a lot of things that happen, you may never know about unless you sit down with me, or call me on the phone, and ask to talk about it. My roommate, bless her heart, is a Freshman and I don’t think she’s lived away from her family for very long. It’s been 7 years for me, so we are just on opposite ends of the college spectrum. However, I love her! She Skypes or emails her family every day, I think…and sometimes when stuff happens, like dinner becomes a disaster, she says “I have to tell my mom what just happened!” and I’m over here like “I’ve ruined so many dinners in my lifetime, my mom wouldn’t expect anything less.” Home will be there when I get home. For now, I’m living in the moment, and loving it!

8. WiFi is not essential.

I do feel that internet is essential, especially because I have assignments to do for my internship here in Romania. However, there are other things to do besides being on the computer. In my apartment, we have a USB that connects us to the internet. If my roommate is using the USB, I have to wait until she is done. That happens a lot, considering my point above, and I’ve come to not mind so much. I find myself doing things like studying Romanian, writing in my journal, and reading. If we had wifi, then my iPhone AND my computer would always have internet, and I’d just be on Facebook all the time, probably. I think that when I move back to Texas in June, I will not have WiFi on my list of essentials as I look for my new abode. I think I could settle for USB internet. 

9. It’s important to make it feel a little bit like home.

I’m this far from home. I don’t know how many miles it is…..but I’m this far:
Map

I left Utah (A on the above map) and 30 hours later I am in Iasi, Romania (B on the above map). However, Texas will always be home, and flamingos will always be “me,” so I brought that part with me. No matter how far I am from home, I have a little piece of home with me. 

Piece of HomeI think it’s important to take familiar things with you when you travel. That way, when you get “home” after a long day, it feels like home. And I foresee many long days ahead of me for the next 3 months.

10. Bread is hard to cut without a bread knife.

Yes, we could just buy a bread knife..but we’d rather save money. Well, considering how cheap the bread is, we can probably afford a bread knife. This beautiful loaf (pictured with my beautiful roommate) was only 2.50 lei (75 cents).

Bread

It is some of the most delicious bread I’ve ever had! We bought a smaller and more expensive loaf today, which is easier to cut with the knife we have…but we ended up just tearing pieces off, anyways. I love the abundance of fresh food here. 

I know I still have a lot to learn. I’ve only been here a week, and I have 11 weeks left!

Here’s to a lifetime of learning ahead!

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Learning Romanian

So, as the title suggests, I am currently learning Romanian!

It’ll be my third language, which is exciting for me!

But listen….IT IS SO HARD!!! Why don’t I remember ASL being this hard to learn??

Maybe because ASL doesn’t have a written component, but Romanian does?
Maybe because ASL doesn’t have conjugations, but Romanian does?

Well whatever it is, it makes me want to cry.

I was sitting in class yesterday and we were reviewing what we learned Monday, then adding a bunch of stuff. Maria, the teacher would ask a question, and the class would answer as a chorus as I sat there confused as to how they knew what she even asked. 

I was seriously about to cry.

No, this isn’t an immersion class, so it’s not all in Romanian, but sometimes she does only speak in Romanian. Like one time we were working in partners…she said something to the class and I was like “what??” but a few people got up and moved and I looked at her confused. She repeated it 2 more times as I sat there looking confused…and then she pointed to me and then pointed to my seat I had been in earlier….OH! We were done working in partners…time to go back to my seat. Why didn’t I get the hint when other people got up and moved? #eyeroll 

I was seriously about to cry again. 

Then she handed out a new paper with a dialogue between two people, and asked for a “voluntar” to read the first character. All in Romanian, of course. I understood “voluntar” because it sounds like volunteer, and she pointed the the first part when she said it, so I got that as well. I raised my hand, thinking that speaking would keep me from busting in to tears, and the first character had more lines, so that was good. So she pointed to me, then found a voluntar to read the other character’s part, and I read…

f 012

So, I stumbled through it. And when I was done…
Maria: Have you had contact with Romanian before?
Me: No, but I’m about to cry… (giggles from class….I don’t think they knew I was serious…)
Maria: That was really good!

And boy, did I feel FANTASTIC after that!

A compliment goes a long way. 

Homework?

Describe yourself in five sentences. Then describe two other members of your family in five more sentences.

And 30 minutes later, what had I accomplished?

  • Produced the shortest 10 sentences of my life
  • Looked through all my notes at least 2 times as I tried to figure it all out
  • And this…

f 013

NAILED IT.

Yes, that took me 30 minutes. But boy, am I proud of it.

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