Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Feb 5, 2013 My First Week in the MTC

     There's a saying here at the MTC that goes something like this: English language speaking missionaries come to learn the gospel; Spanish language speaking missionaries come to learn the language; and Asian language speaking missionaries come to learn humility. There's some truth to that statement. After I was directed to my room I was taken to my classroom where the first lesson was already in progress. I walked into the classroom and was greeted immediately by jabbering in Khmae. Through hand signals, repetition, and an occasional written word on the board, I attempted to speak the language for several hours and the teacher never spoke a word of English.

 It's now been six days and "lookruu Merril" has not had a single word of English pass through his lips while in our presence. It's difficult, occasionally laughable, and at times almost unbearably frustrating, but there is no one here who can say that it's not effective. I've learned more in just the past few days about Khmae than in a full year and a half of Spanish. We started with learning a latinized version of the script to start so we can learn the pronunciations. This means that I can't even read my nametag... Despite the limitations, we are speaking and learning constantly.

 Almost all words in Khmae have about twice as many syllables as their English counterparts. For example, to say "I am a missionary" I would say "Khnom kuucia neak psoopsaaysaasnaa". Also, don't even try to pronounce that. You're doing it wrong. One thing I've learned about our pronounciation is that it's always wrong. It's very hard, but my vocabulary is over 200 at this point and while that is laughably small, it's enough to get my point across. One thing that we can definitely do though, is understand the language. I think our teacher is dumbing it down for us, but when he's speaking and even when he's speaking quickly, we can understand a considerable amount.

     Enough about the language. There are 13 total missionaries in my district going to Cambodia. My companion's name is Elder Khem. He's Cambodian by race, and his parents are both native speakers who escaped the killing fields in the '70s, but he doesn't speak almost any of the language himself other than things like please, thank you, water, bathroom and other simple ideas. He can count though, so I'm jealous. Three of the 13 are sister missionaries. They always seems to be ahead of us in everything, can't quite figure it out. I'm running out of computer time now so I'm going to start going into less detail and just summarizing. There are four in my room. One of them is going home due to a health problem with his thyroid.

 We are in the same room for 9 to 12 hours a day, studying the scriptures and speaking the language. I never thought I would love so much to study the scriptures!! The MTC is such a spiritually powerful place and I'm glad for it.

Our Cambodian classroom with Elder Khem--hours & hours of studying!

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