Something I have struggled with since first coming to Nepal, is the language. My first job didn’t really require me to learn much, and I got by with a few words here and there. And I honestly didn’t anticipate coming back for an extended period of time again.
But I did. And this time, things have been different. My board members are not all fluent in English. Often our conversations are a combination of English and Nepali, with more misunderstandings than you can imagine.
And it is something that I am ashamed of. I know that after all the time I have spent here, I should have a better grasp of the language. I regret not putting in more effort 2 years ago when I first arrived.
But, as I’ve begun to learn a second language, I am learning how to put my ego aside and let myself make mistakes. Learning how to be okay with being wrong.
At first it was hard. A lot of people laugh when I speak Nepali, because lets be honest, no one speaks Nepali with a Canadian accent. And when everyone laughed, it made me feel bad, and I stopped trying at work.
But then, a few weeks ago, one of my board members asked why I almost never spoke Nepali with her.
Her English is only slightly better than my Nepali, and it was difficult to explain. But somehow I got it across – people laughed and made me feel bad about trying, so… I stopped.
I’ll never forget the look on her face, as she told me that I never laughed at her English, so she would never laugh at my Nepali. She then proceeded to pull out a piece of paper and a pen, to start my first informal office Nepali lesson. She is over the moon that I’m trying, and I learn new words almost every day.
The lady who owns a tea shop just down the street from my office, gets the biggest smile on her face whenever I say just a few words. I’ll ask, “Kati bhayo?” (How much?) and she is always so happy when I understand her reply. I can see how she lights up when I show up and her joy in my limited Nepali makes me want to try more.
I have a friend, who listens without judgement, and always corrects my mistakes without making fun of me. They’re just thrilled that I’m trying and are doing everything in their power to help me learn (including texting me in Nepali Unicode on a daily basis).
It’s been a learning curve, and a challenge. But slowly, slowly (bistari, bistari) I am understanding and speaking more.
And hopefully, one day, I’ll be able to have a full conversation with my board members, with my local friends, and be able to tell them how much I appreciate everything they do for me.