“Hendru! Cats piss bag!”

On Saturday we went for a swim with some of the village kids, like we’ve done over the past weeks here in Weligama. Usually the girls and some of the mothers go swimming on Saturdays, and lately also some boys have tagged along. We like to join them in this little routine, and enjoy playing, swimming, diving, practicing English and Sinhala and spending time together in the water.

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Kids swimming and playing

This past weekend something new happened; one of the older boys had a mask and snorkel that Anders (Andrew) got to use for a while. At some point when Anders had his head above the surface, he heard:
“Hendru! Cats piss bag!” from the boy that gave him his mask. And Andrew (Anders) asked him to repeat it, since he didn’t understand what was with the bag and the cats piss.

The boy gave Anders a plastic bag and again said: “Hendru! Cats piss bag!”, and Anders realizes that the boy wants him to catch a fish into the bag. ‘Andrew! Catch fish bag’.

Sometimes the sentences and pronunciation of words creates a bit of confusion for us. And of course, at a time like this, it also makes a really good story of when the boy came to talk about the cats piss bag.

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Refreshment after swimming

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Creativity at play

Do you remember?

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Starting a game of memory

An idea came and I took action right away. Created a memory game for us to play with the family – a combination of doing something fun together, and to practice words.

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A box of crackers, a cup and a pen

At bed time I often play a game or two of memory on my tablet, to practice my memory before sleeping. And now I realized it could be a fun way to work with English and Sinhala for all of us.

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21 pairs of pictures

I had fun making it, getting to use my pens and creativity to draw all the different pictures.

So tonight tried the game with the daughter of the family after dinner, and it worked out rather well.

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Not matching

She’s willing to practice, and we all learn things together – and have fun! This game also strenghten our overall communication skills and our relationships. So, for the next “lesson” we want to find something else to do, play or use as a help. Mostly, it’s spoken English that needs to be improved, and to have a few pictures to use as a base is good for small conversations and role plays.

So we’ll see what we come up with!

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Pineapple, boat, house, cup, chair...

Undskyld, pardon, disculpe

German, English, Portuguese, Arabic, French, Spanish and some Danish. Oh, and Swedish of course.

There are many languages circulating in our heads after meeting with different people, cultures and places over the last eight months. And some phrases seem to stick extra hard into the memory in each language.

We had no clue what we ordered for lunch that day

We had no clue what we ordered for lunch that day

Like the word undskyld, which means ‘pardon’ in Danish. That’s one word that use to come out as an excuse if I don’t hear what someone is saying or if I want to walk pass somebody in a store or on the street. Doesn’t matter where we are, that’s the word that’s glued into my head when I’m outside of Sweden.

In French the expression Bon weekend soon became my absolute favorite when wishing someone a nice weekend. I would actually be a bit disappointed on Mondays, having to wait several days until I could use it again!

Back in Sweden, all of a sudden we understand what people are saying around us

Back in Sweden, all of a sudden we understand what people are saying around us

There have been many times when all of those languages became a mush and were all mixed up. Not to talk about the dialects and pronunciation… A different story! Let’s just say our former ‘proper’ American accent went down the drain in France and our Swenglish is blooming like never before. At least mine. And the funny thing is that I am ok with that, there is no language shame any more.

In Flores in the Azores I met a sailor who speaks Spanish and just a little English. For me it’s the opposite, and we did our best in talking and listening with words, body language and examples. It worked out ok, no long discussions or really deep talks about life, but we were able to understand and practice some basics.

Anders outside "The green store" in Flores

Anders outside “The green store” in Flores

Now over the summer, not really knowing where we’ll spend the coming winter, we’re practicing Spanish on Duolingo again, and I listen to the French course we have on our mobiles. For the time being it feels rich to learn bits and pieces of languages and we both look forward to when we’re able to master a third, fourth and maybe fifth language!

Summer walks inspire to listening and learning more

Summer walks inspire to listening and learning more

Hej då // Wivan

Turning barriers into bumps

After six months in countries where we don’t speak the language, we’ve met quite a few situations where those language “barriers” could have stopped us. Sometimes we have let ourselves be stopped by the lack of ability to speak fluently, but we’ve also trained ourselves in overcoming those barriers and turning them into speed bumps instead.

At the market in Thiviers

At the market in Thiviers

When we first arrived in France, back in November last year, the very first day we arrived in the small village where our first house sit was, we walked around, looking for a place to eat. It had been a really intense period of moving out of our house, selling it and then driving for 24 hours straight through Europe. We felt tired and insecure, not at all ready to try and order food in a restaurant. We gave in to the “barrier”.

Instead we went to the local supermarket and got some things to eat that first afternoon.

From the supermarket: baguette, wine & toilet paper

From the supermarket: baguette, wine & toilet paper

After a few days of rest, settling down to that new way of life, and starting to accept that we didn’t know any French whatsoever, we started going to markets and found out we were able to make ourselves understood anyways. And when it comes to buying things, Anders’ take on it is that someone who sells really should want to “help us out” to get what we want, meaning we shouldn’t be ashamed but try our best and rely on the other person wanting to sell us something. If that’s not the case, we simply take our money and go someplace else.

At Au Fil du Temps in Brantôme in November: it was a surprise to see what we had ordered!

At Au Fil du Temps in Brantôme in November: it was a surprise to see what we had ordered!

We also downloaded an app with an offline French dictionary, to be able to look some words up, and we have been using Google translate a lot to find out single words or understanding certain phrases. After those first days of language barriers, we set up a strategy to ask the person we wanted to talk to if they speak English, instead of just starting to talk – we thought that was a more polite way of meeting people. And later we’ve of course learned phrases in French to ask just that, and have at times written down the essentials for remembering what to say or ask for in the butcher’s shop or at the post office.

To us, who like learning languages, and have quite a good sense of it too, it certainly has been a mental challenge not to be able to speak freely and say what we want.

In Cairo we used an online home-delivery at times

In Cairo we used an online home-delivery at times

It’s been helpful to meet travelers totally without shame for not speaking a second or third language, who just go ahead and try their best, failing forward and expecting to be caught when falling. Always with a smile on their face.

So that’s what we do now: always smiling, trying with whatever little words we know, then smile a bit more, and expecting some help. It goes a long way! And with our Swedish and English as main languages, we also speak a little German, understand some Spanish and practice a little French. Let’s just say that we don’t intend to learn any Portuguese at the moment, though Wivan’s new found “friend” whom she meets daily at her walks is quite disappointed when he starts taking up conversations about the weather, his moped and whatever it might be. That’ll be a barrier for a bit longer!

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Moped in Flores

// Anders & Wivan