Mostly, my days are filled with trying to learn more Khmer. This means I’m mostly struggling with unknown words and sounds. I’m often in environments where I’m straining to understand even just a little of what is being said.
Recently though, I had some experiences which made me step back and see the progress I’ve made this year. Let me share them with you.
One Saturday morning, around 7am I was walking along a road carrying a silver plate of grapes. As a wedding guest I was part of the fruit procession, there were two long lines of us walking towards the function hall where the wedding was being held. It was all very festive and colourful, accompanied by music and clicking cameras.
Walking in the opposite direction was another fruit procession. I looked over at them and realised I recognised many of the faces. They were from the church I went to last year; I hadn’t seen most of them all year. Afterwards I caught up with a few groups of them. “Che khmai chrarnna!” (Lit: know Khmer language a lot). They were all surprised at how much Khmer I know now. It felt much easier to communicate with them than last year.
A recent Sunday morning at Khmer church we sang a song. It was one I had tried to learn at the start of the year. I remember painstakingly trying to read each word with my tutor. They were all so hard to pronounce. All I could understand was “God” and “I”.
But at this end of the year the song is not so much of a mystery. I found, while I still didn’t understand every word, I could sing along.