Wednesday, March 23, 2016


Several people have asked for more info on what language learning looks like for us. Here are some details. If you have other questions you would like to ask, send them along!

Our daily routines are not very glamorous these days. We are in language school full-time, and some of you have asked what that looks like. We are currently finishing our second "module," or level, at Gateway to Khmer. Our school has been open for about a year and a half, and we are incredibly grateful to be able to learn there. The school was started by some missionaries and aid workers who were struggling to learn Khmer all the way to fluency. Because of this struggle, they decided to start a new school. Thankfully one of those foreign workers was an experienced foreign language teacher trainer, and along with a talented Cambodian staff, they created a wonderful, structured program for students of Khmer. 

When we first got to Cambodia, we were studying in a different school while waiting for the school year to start at Gateway to Khmer. We had wonderful teachers, were learning quickly in a one-on-one setting, and had a lot of flexibility. It was hard for us to make the switch to the new school, but from day one we loved it. Part of what makes the new school such a good fit is that they have adapted the International Phonetic Alphabet to the Khmer language. Basically that means we have a tool to be able to read and write what we are learning correctly until we start tackling the Khmer alphabet in the next few modules. We have been amazed to learn so many sounds we had no idea were in the language! The staff at our apartment building has even commented to us that our pronunciation is improving, and we are so thankful for the way the new school is helping us with that (even if it means lots of awkward practicing making "a 'u' sound while smiling"). 

Basically, we go to school at 8 each morning and get out at noon. We have three sessions split between two different teachers, with 15 minute breaks in between. Typically we learn vocabulary in our first session, practice speaking and listening in the second session, and then work on phonetics in the final session. Classes can be up to 10 people, but we had 8 in our first module and 5 in our second. 

We typically come home for lunch, do some of our other work-related tasks, and then do our homework. We usually have a couple of worksheets and sometimes phonetics listening exercises that our school has uploaded to Google Drive for students (really helpful!). Afterwards we do some additional studying. For Lauren that looks a lot like the above: writing words again and again. For David, it often involves flash cards. Our school has also provided weekly word lists that also have audio files posted on Google Drive. Lauren has been known to listen to those while making dinner, washing dishes, or just sitting on the hammock. 

Overall, language learning is a lot of work, but our small steps are already starting to add up. We are excited to one day be able to converse fluently and hopefully be good advocates and assets to Cambodian pastors throughout the country.