Language Update, 1 year later

MST gave us the opportunity to have an informal language assessment. All of the language teachers Peace Corps provides are friendly, speak clearly and at a slightly slower pace than normal conversation, and allow us the precious time to finish our thoughts. In that way, these aren’t like regular conversations with everyday Mongolians. I subjected myself to it because I needed validation that my Mongolian language has improved over the last year. Another reason was because I wanted that confirmation to motivate me to redouble my efforts at language study. Without further suspense (insert drumroll here), I advanced by TWO levels!!!—from Novice-High (the minimum proficiency required by Peace Corps) to Intermediate-Mid.

The language assessment was a conversation between me and the tester. We covered the basics: where I’m from, where I live in Mongolia, where I work and what I do. She asked how far I live from work and I told her it was about a 7-minute walk. She asked me to tell her about my apartment and had a follow-up question: what floor do you live on? I didn’t hesitate: Bi neg davxhart amdardag—I live on the first floor. She asked about my hobbies and I said I make hats and she asked, “how many hats did you make?” I wanted to answer “When I was in America, I made…” but I realized I didn’t know that grammar point, so I fumbled my way through but she got the gist (90 vs 15). She asked how many people live in Boston and I answered 500,000—though I’m not sure of the accuracy of that number, it’s what I’ve been using. I told her Boston is a small city (because in my mind it stretches the 3 miles from the North End to The Fenway), then she wanted me to compare it to the million people in UB… I didn’t know how to explain the nuance of “Well, Boston includes Dorchester, Southie, Charlestown, East Boston, JP… so, in fact, it’s much bigger than 3 miles.” But, I understood what she was asking and will leave out the 3-miles bit from now on. At the end, she invited me to ask her questions. I started with “Where are you from?” and expressed surprise that she was born in UB and had lived her whole life there. I asked what languages she speaks and she answered “Of course, Mongolian, also Russian, and a little English.” I asked her if she thought English was difficult. She was emphatic that it was. She wrote the word “light” on a piece of paper and said, in Mongolian, “Why?!” I just shook my head in acknowledgment… the madness of English.

Immediately upon learning of my two-level increase, I realized that if I were to improve another two levels by Close of Service, I will finish Peace Corps service as an Advanced-Low speaker of Mongolian. But, knowing that I put in minimal effort (limited to vocabulary study) this past year, and since I plan to really study and speak more over the next year, my goal is Advanced-High. There it is, in writing, for the world to see. Four more levels—ZA!

4 Responses to Language Update, 1 year later

  1. Priscilla A. Arsenault says:

    Delighted to read another blog entry from you Love so quickly on the heels of your last one, what a treat! Kudos to you for your aspirations in reaching your “Advanced-High” language level! Since you put it out there, “for the world to see,” makes it that much harder to not achieve it, since we the world will be breathing down your neck, checking up on you, making sure you’re working towards your goal 🙂 Can I ask you a question? At the very end of the 2nd to last paragraph, when the language assessment tester and you were talking, what did she mean when she wrote the word “light” and asked in Mongolian, “Why?” I’m sure I should get it, what you’re talking about there, the significance of it, but I just don’t, sorry. Love & miss you!

    • eelevol says:

      Thanks for asking. She was referring to the spelling… since it isn’t phonetic at all, she was making the point that it is difficult to read, even words you know. Other commonly cited examples are bough, rough, and dough. So many exceptions that have to be memorized.

      • Kathy P. Willis says:

        Actually glad you clarified that, I thought it had to do with the various meanings (e.g., weight, brightness) not realizing that we take the spelling of things for granted. They must think us crazy as they get into the bows & “do re mi” of things! 🙂 … which reminds me of a song in “The Sound of Music” (& I think we can all agree, it reminds us of you…) “I have confidence in confidence alone – Besides which you see I have confidence in me!”
        It’s always good to be held accountable, it makes you work towards your goal that much harder. Rooting for you sweetie!
        Love, ~Auntie~

  2. Priscilla A. Arsenault says:

    You’re not far off w/your “500,000” people living in Boston. According to wiki, as of 2011 the population was 625,087 (

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