My history of learning languages is rather checkered. In Grade 8, I spent French lessons delightedly saying "Comme Ci, Comme Ca" in answer to almost any question and hoping Mrs. Stubbings wouldn't ask me to read aloud or say anything in French (other than Comme Ci Comme Ca). Afrikaans was spent gossiping in semi hushed tones or reading my English book inside my Afrikaans one. As for Zulu and Xhosa, my skill is questionable at best.
Now I have started Khmer. I meet one on one with a tutor, Mr. Socheat and this time around I am determined to become proficient in another language.
I've had a few lessons so far and Mr. Socheat very graciously refrains from laughing at my pronunciation and prompts me when I stare blankly in response to his question. Realising that the key to language acquisition is practice, I set off a few days ago determined to try out my newly acquired Khmer on the first moto driver I saw.
Except I completely chickened out. After he dropped me off, I paid him, mumbled "Arkuun"(thank you) and set off to explore Street 178. Since then I've overcome a bit of my shyness, thanks in large part to the appreciation Cambodians show when I attempt Khmer, as halting as it is. I can now say hello, goodbye, tell my name, order fried rice, fried noodles and iced coffee, and a few other useful things. I can't wait for the day when I no longer need maps and handgestures. Mr. Socheat includes historical and cultural tit bits, like the fact that the societal structure is all about status and hierarchy and different classes of people as well as different genders get spoken to with different words. A point of amusement for me is that an upset stomach is referred to as Vietnam stomach but a healthy stomach is referred to as Japan stomach. Good to know!
Speaking of lessons, I have one in a few minutes.