So on Thursday, while I was teaching a lesson with my companions, I had a rather profound thought and it was as follows: "Dude. I'm speaking Thai. Who does that?" Yup. I'm actually really excited about that. I mean, seriously now, it's Thai. And now I can speak it ... well, sort of. I can't speak it well but there are still these random combinations of sounds and tones exiting my mouth and people are understanding them. And now we are reading from the Book of Mormon. It's is so exciting. I remember when Courtnee bought me the Book of Mormon in Thai during winter semester and I just stared at it, doubtful that I would ever be able to read it. Of course, I knew that eventually I would be able to read it which made it that much more exciting. And now here I am, reading Thai. It's so hard but so rewarding after you sound out a word and it is actually one you recognize. Elder Hill (an Elder in my district) made a very accurate and fun remark: very few people get a second chance to feel the joys of learning to read. But let me tell you why learning to speak and read Thai is difficult:
1) Vowels. There are 36 of them. 36! And they are not always right after the consonant as it is in English. They can be before the consonant, after it, above it, below it, or on both sides of it.
2) Consonants. There are 44 but 8 are uncommon so we haven't learned them. Consonants have different sounds depending whether they are at the beginning or in the middle of the word or if they are the last consonant of the word. Also, multiple letters can make the same sound so spelling is challenging.
3) Thai is a giant hashtag. aka there are no spaces. The scriptures are nice and use commas and periods but besides that, therearenospacesthewordsareallnexttoeachothersoinordertoreadyoujusthavetofigureitout. Just like in English, it is so much easier once you can recognize individual words. So we will improve with time.
4) Tones. Tones are evil, just pure evil. We have been told that because the Thai people have grown up with different tones meaning different things, they don't really understand how someone would mix up "chay" (with a rising tone, meaning to use) or "chay" (with a mountain, meaning yes, that is correct). So yeah, that is why you can say "may" five different ways and say "that new wood doesn't burn". Let me teach you how to figure out the tone of the word. First, what is the consonant of the word? There are three different classes of consonants (high, middle, or low). Once you figure that out, look to see if there is a tone marker above that consonant. There are five markers (including not having one) but luckily two are rarely used. The tone depends on both the first consonant's class and the tone marker. But wait, there's more. If the word ends in a b, d, or g sound, you kind of ignore that tone you just figured out. Now the tone depends on the length of the vowel (long or short) and the class of the first consonant.
And that, my dear loved ones, is why Thai is hard to read/speak. But it is a lot of fun to learn. Wonderfully frustrating. And the challenge is kind of exhilarating.
So some fun stories about Thai before I continue my letter:
- In the lesson of two of the sisters in the other district, one sister was telling the investigator that during prayers you can ask God for whatever (help, knowledge, etc). The investigator (played by their teacher) seemed really hesitant but the sister was really confident and supportive so the investigator started to pray. This is when it gets funny. After opening, he pretended to shoot a gun upward. Apparently the sister had been saying to kill God instead of to ask God. It gets better. After a good long laugh at this, we all then realized that during our prayers, instead of asking God, we had been saying kill. Yup. Good times. The words are really similar - the only difference is how wide your mouth is when saying "a". Yeah.
- Now for an interesting time in our lesson. I can't remember exactly what we were teaching Nike but we wanted to have him read Alma 38:9 which talks about Christ being the light and life of the world. Instead we accidentally had him read Alma 39:9 which condemned him for his sexual lusts. Yup. "So Nike, how do you feel about this scripture?" "Well... um...I don't know." We had him read the right scripture when we realized our mistake and he liked the correct one much better. Good times.
- In Thai, you teach on the floor so we sisters are always doing that sideways-kneel thing where you kneel but then lean to a side. If you don't remember to switch sides during the 30-minute long lesson, your entire leg will fall asleep. This hasn't happened to me because I always switch sides but my companions always forget. Our teachers (still trying to be in investigator mode) always crack up at the end of the lessons because my companions are limping out of the classroom. They think it is the most hilarious thing.
- So we had a scare while teaching Phii Thom a couple of lessons back. We had a member present (another teacher) and those two were talking a lot so we couldn't really catch everything they were saying. The words we did catch were about the Book of Mormon not being true. And the member was just nodding his head the entire time. My companions and I were just speech-less, looking back and forth between Phii Thom and Brother Gann, totally confused. Finally I interrupted their conversation and said "I don't really understand the words you are saying but did you just say that you didn't believe the Book of Mormon was true?" And this was like our third or fourth lesson with Phii Thom. Then Phii Thom spent ten minutes trying to explain the word "thaa" to us. In case you were curious, it means "if". It turns out, what he was saying was that we would not have given him the book if it were not true so he believes that it is true. We felt much better after that. Not surprisingly, yesterday Brother Shipley (who plays Phii Thom) taught us how to make if-then statements. Yeah. Phii Thom is an interesting investigator. I'm almost out of time so I will tell you more about him and the other investigator later.
So Memorial Day sounded like a lot of fun. :) The only reason we knew it was that weekend was because Music and the Spoken Word on Sunday was all patriotic. It was really, really nice. The fun thing is that on Monday a lot of sisters did their best to wear red, white, and blue.
How is it now that seminary has ended? Our new district goal is to read one of the Book of Mormon scripture mastery each night. Eventually we'll get to memorizing them. One suggestion I have for everyone is to add studying Preach My Gospel to studying the scriptures. There are many pearls of wisdom found in those pages.
How is the yard doing? You should send me pictures of the cicadas and of the new flower bed. I vote 100% yay to getting a fire pit. That would be a lot of fun.
How are the new callings coming along? And the old callings? How was the funeral? How's life? What's been happening out beyond the MTC bubble? Barbie said it's been raining a lot in NJ. How is the lawn handling it?
Oh, and our teachers recently challenged us to no longer bring notes and dictionaries into the lessons. Now all we bring are the scriptures in both languages. Honestly, it is so much better this way. We have to really know what we want to say because we can't just read off of a piece of paper. And now we are building a stronger relationship with the investigator because we are actually talking with them instead of trying to follow a lesson plan. And even though we no longer can look things up in a dictionary, we are saying most everything we want to say. It's so cool. And the spirit has been stronger when we don't use notes.
Remember how I said Brother Shipley is from New Jersey? Another teacher was asking if we knew each other from before hand and Brother Shipley said we didn't (which is correct). Then he (jokingly) said that I was from the uncool and dirty part of New Jersey (the Northern part) and he was from the cool part (the Southern part). I disagreed but thought that it was funny.
Is there anything anyone wants to know about life here in the MTC? I don't know what you want to hear about. Also, I would love some pictures from anyone that is reading this. Just lots of pictures because I did not make time to print many out before coming here. So yup, pictures would be nice.
To your question about me keeping my room clean, yes I have. We have passed all our cleaning checks...expect for the first one because our beds were not made and we didn't know we got random weekly cleaning checks. Now we make our beds every day.
Barbie, that's really exciting about Sheila. (Sheila is a friend of mine who's just gotten engaged.) Tell her congrats for me! :) Also, there are some rooms in the buildings that used to have two-way mirrors (the mirrors have been since taken down). I have been told that they were used by the CIA because the CIA wanted to observe how people in the MTC learned the languages so quickly. I agree that it is really funny. I mean, this method is not one that can be duplicated. You cannot duplicate the Spirit of the Lord and the gift of tongues. Sorry. :) I'll try to write down some more interesting facts about Thai. And I'm going to start a snail letter with a lot of spiritual things that I've learned here. An hour just isn't enough time to write everything.
Dad, ew. Just ew. I don't want to eat bugs. I know I will but ugh. I know they will probably be tasty but still. Ew. And I print out the emails at 11 and read them while doing laundry so feel free to send really long letters. How has work been? And the de-merger? I guess that would be called the splitting but I like de-merger better. :)
Well, I have to go. Write me please :) Love you all very, very, very much. and the MTC is amazing!