Such is the assessment of my pronunciation of Marosvasarhely, the city I am going to this weekend for a medical appointment–and, with luck, to record my first interview. I think this has been arranged, but it’s hard to say. Vague is something of a cultural norm.
Marosvasarhely. The most difficult string of five syllables I have ever encountered. I find myself practicing it in bed during the too-excited-to-sleep interludes that mark the middle of my nights.
Marosvasarhely. The “s” is sounded like a Canadian “sh” and the “l” is silent. And you have to learn to let your face kind of hang off your cheekbones. Although, not being a linguist, it’s hard for me to know if this is a trick of pronunciation, much like the need to smile for a Spanish “e,” or a way of speaking adopted under forty years of police state suppression.
There is much that is hard to get my mouth around.
Today is day seventeen. After losing my footing on an uneven section of sidewalk eight hours after arrival, I am getting my feet back under me. I am hoping for a dispensation from the orthopaedic surgeon tomorrow that will free me from the splint I’m wearing (I cracked the bone that goes from my pinkie finger to my wrist). Without the splint, taking photographs will be easier.
While I’m disappointed I haven’t taken many pictures, I’m pleased with what I’ve accomplished as an English conversation coach.
I now have seven private practice students. The first two to sign up were not seminarians, but Hungarian university students living here in the dormitory. These two are advanced language students, one majoring in languages and hoping to work in the hospitality industry in Germany, the other a business student planning to study next in Korea. Foreign languages are the ticket to economic success for young people in Romania and these two students leapt at the chance for free English practice.
The next five are junior seminarians. Having them sign up was a major accomplishment, as most of these students, even though they have reasonable vocabularies and grammar, struggle to form even basic sentences in conversation. I know this problem from trying to learn Spanish. First you need to translate normal, complex adult thought into a simplistic sentence–and then get it our of your mouth with the right sounds and the correct tense. And you have to do all this in front of a stranger. So I am thrilled for each brave soul who signs up–and happily agree to any request that we practice with the door closed. Open door or closed, I think the laughter coming from our practice room helps spread the word that English practice can be fun.
All first time students get a Purdy’s chocolate bar–made in Vancouver. Label reading being part of the language lesson.
Today I will spend my second Wednesday attending the three junior seminarian English language classes. Then the English teacher, who makes the two and a half hour bus trip from Marosvasarhely herself, will teach me the bus system.
Intermediate seminarians have a class in English homiletics on Tuesday mornings. They read through English sermons, practicing them aloud and confirming their understanding. I was asked to repeat what the students read aloud, and added a sense of delivery in addition to native-speaker pronunciation. The teacher is setting the last half hour aside for conversation with me.
And lastly, there is the highlight of my week–the Theological and Spiritual Topics in English discussion group. We met for the second time last night and already the group has grown from five to six participants and they’ve asked if we can extend the group from one to two hours. Best of all, one of these students has done undergraduate studies in tourism management and they’ve invited me to join them for their spring break trip to Belgrade, Ljubljana, Trieste, and Venice. Bus travel and seven-to-a-room hostel accommodation. Am I going? Would not miss it.