Sunday, April 18, 2010

Learning Another Language

So Kim and I have been in Nepal for three months now, and you know how much Nepali I can speak? About 20 words. Maybe 30. Of those words, I think I've only learned three since I've been here. Among these (and the spelling may be off, I've only heard them verbally) are mamu (mother) babu (baby/kid) and ha-jur which is kind of like yes/excuse me I think. See I don't even know these words...I just hear them a lot.

One of my goals in coming here was to learn another language, as I never really have. I know a minimal amount of Spanish, and enough French and Italian words to get by as a tourist. I can say hello and thank you in lots of languages... because as a tourist that speaks English that's all you ever need. I wanted it to be different here, and though I know that regardless of how well I speak Nepali I will always be an outsider, it couldn't hurt to be able to converse a little in the local language.

So yesterday we were at a yard sale that was put on by the American Embassy at Phora, the American Club.
Some of the embassy staff that were getting ready to head on to other assignments were selling some of the stuff that they had. Among them was this "Teach Yourself Nepali" CD'd and Books. Apparently the family had gotten it as a gift from two different people, and one copy went unopened. We bought it for 500 NRS ($7). As you can see, Amazon lists this product a $200, so that seems like it was a good find.

Besides not having something to learn from like this, the problem has been that you can get by so easily in Nepal with English that you could be here for years and never learn hardly a phrase. In fact we've met more than a few people who have done just that. While occasionally people speak no English or very poor English they are generally people I am only interacting with on a limited basis, such as buying food from, and hand signals, pointing and calculators seem to do the trick here. Another barrier is that they have a different script based on Sanskrit, not the alphabet that we use. Even if I learn to speak it, it is unlikely I'll become literate in Nepali in the near future.

Learning this will be completely up to me, and whether or not I can fight off being a lazy bastard. As Yoda once correctly pointed out; Do, or do not. There is no try. So with that in mind, it looks like I'm going to learn Nepali.


  1. Dear Mr. Smith, 18-4-2010

    I am referring to: "So yesterday we were at a yard sale that was put on by the American Embassy at Phora, the American Club."
    Would you please send me the official name of the American Club you visited and a website and a contact e-mail?

    Thank you for your help.

    Sincerely yours,
    Jürgen Abel
    The American International Society in Hamburg (Germany)

  2. It is true. It is easy to get by speaking little or no nepali, but people really do appreciate it when you can speak with them (even just a little). "Tapai lai saanchai hunnahunchha?" is always a good one. We took some lessons with a woman named Parbati who teaches at a company in Thamel called ITC (Intercultural Training and Research Institute). She was a wonderful teacher and a realy nice person.

    If you are interested here is the web address...


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