One of the biggest challenges of immersion in a foreign country for me is speaking the new language. While spending time in other countries around the world, I have always felt afterward that I could have tried harder to learn the language, and therefore the culture. Being completely surrounded by the Malagasy people and culture has been no different. As a person who has been exposed to (and struggled with) many romantic languages such as French and Spanish, learning a new and very different vocabulary, not to mention grammatical format, is tough… yet also refreshing. So from day one, I began investing my free time and energy into the new sounds and tones dominated by the region.
I communicate with locals mainly through broken French, and somehow, slowly, we make progress together. Most nights, I try to use what I have learned with our cook, Tasi, in conversation. Tasi speaks neither English nor French so it feels incredibly rewarding when she understands what I say, or when I understand what she says.
One way I try to make learning Malagasy more fun and manageable for myself is through drawing. Lissy and I have diagrams and vocabulary words tacked up around our house for easy access and review.
There is never an end to the “journey” of learning a language. And I cannot imagine becoming close to fluent in Malagasy in the short three months I will be here. However I am excited to at least become familiar with a not-so-common language, and to begin to understand the words that are being spoken around me.