Friday, August 03, 2007

Library and Language Barrier

Yesterday I decided to go to the library to get myself a library card. I was at first hoping that I could go there with my hubby, but he told me to go there alone. Yeah, yeah, I still wanted to depend on him even though it was such a "trivial" matter. However, I thought, "Well, it's maybe for my own sake that he wouldn't escort me there so I should learn to be brave."

So I went there and GLADLY there weren't too many people there. Even so, I waited until the counters were clear he he he...while waiting for the counters to be clear from people, I kept on reciting the words "Puhutteko englantia?" (read: Do you speak English?) in my head. My heart went pitter-patter as I hadn't really started a conversation in Finnish with anyone ever since I moved here.

After some time (and a kick on the butt - figuratively), I approached one of the desks and asked the question. I actually got too nervous so that I didn't really understand what she answered, but I talked to her in English anyway...SLOWLY to make sure she understood me. The problem is, Finnish people have varied abilities in understanding or speaking English (I think they may understand everything I say, but they may have difficulty in expressing themselves in English, except for some fluent ones). Plus the woman I was talking to was middle-aged, so I was really wondering about her English ability. Gladly she could speak standard English pretty well.

She told me to fill in a form (gladly everything was in English) and present my passport to her. After that she gave me my library card and told me I could use it starting that day. Then I asked her a few questions. She faltered when answering my last question. It was clear she was trying hard to remember the English word of a Finnish word he he he...but in the end she managed to explain it to me the "longer" way. I was so sure she looked relieved when she saw me leave he he he he...LOL!!!

Anyway, one problem I've encountered is that language barrier. Since neither I nor Finnish people had English as our mother tongue, then it's really a struggle. Plus I have little confidence in speaking Finnish. Even though I have memorized lots of words already, but when forming the words into a sentence, it takes a LONG time to do so. Plus I haven't really practised speaking much. I can understand many more words in a text (of course only the words that I've memorized) than when listening to somebody speaking (even though they may say all the words that I've memorized). Anyone who's ever learnt a new language will understand my problem. :-)))

I told this "problem" to my friends and boy, I'm SO glad some of my friends are or have been in the same boats. Three of my close friends are now living in USA, Germany, and Holland respectively, so they've encountered the same problem. When I explained to them how my heart went pitter-patter when trying to talk in Finnish, they shared similar experiences with me. Two of them said, "Hey, it's SO normal!" And that really made me feel SO much better. :-)))

Years back, if something like this ever happened to me, I would have beaten myself over and over again for being so foolish (I'm one of those people who HATE making mistakes). However, one of my resolutions this year is to be K I N D to myself, so I'm gonna stick to it.

Sharing something with others feels SO good in this case. In being vulnerable to mockery or being misunderstood, sometimes you find that you're comforted and understood. Better yet, you find that you're encouraged and strengthened, knowing that you're not alone.

Now I want to dedicate this song to all my friends and fellow bloggers who've been sharing my life journey, THANK YOU SO MUCH for having been there for me.

Enjoy "At The Beginning" by Richard Marx and Donna Lewis. (Btw, I've been trying to put the html sign "center" for the lyric, but I still can't move it to the middle. If anyone knows how to fix this, do tell me. THX A LOT!!!)



  1. I used to work at a library in South Africa. One day this dear old man came in.. and the other librarians said "oh noooo!!!"

    He was Italian and spoke no English. Apparently how we got by was he had a list of phone numbers of family and people he knew who spoke both English and Italian. Everywhere he went (I saw him do this in the bank once) - he would hand over his list and say "please phone". Then they'd have to phone and get someone to act as the translator.

    But this day we phoned all three numbers on his list, but no one was home.

    He tried explaining. SAying words slowly.. and suddenly I recognised one. Not exactly the same, but close. I speak a tiny bit of Spanish and he had used a word for "bird" in Italian.

    I went over to him and I flapped my arms. He almost hugged me he was so happy! :-))

    i took him to the animal section and he started to quack, like a duck. So I knew what type of bird books he was looking for. THen he acted out painting with a brush and slowly I got to understand he was an artist and wanted pictures of ducks and birds to copy for his paintings. We had such fun that day and we laughed so much.

    He taught me how much joy there can be finding other ways to communicate, as long as you remember to find joyous laughter in the experience. :-)

    He taught me this too - dn't worry about the grammer or the sentence structure. Find the person you are talking to at soul level first. Find their eyes and their heart.. and be prepared to laugh at the joy of your own clumsiness.

  2. THX SO MUCH for sharing your story, M. It's enlightening for me to see how it's like from the other side of the perspective.

    And yeah, when I try to talk to my mother-in-law without my hubby's presence, I have to resort to body language and it's been fun, too. LOL!!!

    I have to admit I'm a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to grammar. I just want to get the hang of it he he he...but OK, I'm learning (NOT EASILY) that I have to take risks in life and MAKE mistakes he he he...

  3. Oh boy, I used to be (still am in spots) such a perfectionist!

    It's been a long struggle to learn that the world will not fall apart if I burn dinner, mess up my typing or am less than perfect.

    Laughing at yourself is great therapy. *big grin*

    .. but I still hate it when my cooking doesn't come out perfect! :-P

  4. He he he you used to be a perfectionist, eh? Yeah, it's not easy to get rid of it completely. Is it even possible to get rid completely? Maybe in a decade or two I'll have the answer he he he...

    I'm not a perfectionist in every little thing, but there are some things I'm a bit fussy about hi hi hi...Need to let go. Let go. Let gooooooooo!!!! Heaven help me! ;-D

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  6. Hi!

    I visited here via blog search. You've got nice pages and the pictures are beautiful :) I hope you enjoy living in Finland! I think Lappland is the best part of it :)

    Best wishes,
    Hilta from westcoast of Fin

  7. Hi, Hilta! Welcome to my blog and THX for dropping by.

    Yes, I DO enjoy living in Lapland very much. ;-D The first few weeks were confusing, but now I feel like being home. ;-D

    Too bad my Finnish isn't good enough to understand your posts, but maybe someday I'll be good enough to be able to comment on your Finnish posts. ;-D

  8. Ciao Amelia!

    Your hubby did well to make you go by yourself...when I was 18, I went to live in France; when I got there I wanted to go everywhere with my parents because I wasn't used to speaking French (even though we start learning French in the 7th grade, here...but I soon found out that one thing was to read texts, translate them, the other thing is to hear the locals speaking it, and expressing yourself in that language). But my mom would send me alone to stores, libraries, markets etc; and eventually I started to learn, and today I'm great at it :)! The only way to learn it, is to forget the language you know best (this ain't easy, I know), and speak the new one, so you can gain confidence!

    LOL oh, you're a perfectionist...I see!!!

    Girl, you will make it! I just know it :)! Give yourself time :)!

    Thanks for the song :)...


  9. THX for your encouragement, Max!!! Yeah, I shall follow your advice as best as I can he he he...I'm pretty shy still when it comes to practising the language hi hi hi...

    Glad you enjoyed the song. See ya later!!! ;-D