This term, we are taking a course called “Second Language And Culture Acquisition”. Yesterday afternoon was our first language-lab session, and we are in a group learning the Ngambai language from southern Chad. The curious wrinkle in our learning process is that our native speaking Language Consultant does not speak much English, so we have a French-speaking Staff Consultant to help facilitate the group sessions.
As we were going through the activities and exercises in our lab session, the SC was communicating with our LC in French. Even though we were there to learn Ngambai, I (Ryan) found myself unconsciously paying attention to the exchanges in French, as much as the Ngambai. It was surprising to find that I could figure out most of what was being said in French, although I could not have produced the dialogue myself.
Emily says that she also found herself listening to the French, because she has had previous exposure to Romance languages. However, she had to consciously tune it out, because we are there to learn Ngambai and not French.
It is a mind-bender to be working in two foreign languages at once, especially ones as different as French and Ngambai. Recalling vocabulary and structures will be a fun exercise. We have joked with our colleagues in Francophone Africa that maybe God is preparing us for another bend in our road – who knows!