Lost in Translation

Most of my village speaks English relatively well (certainly much better than I speak Setswana), but people don’t use English much in the village. Most of the meetings, church services, and other gatherings that I attend are conducted in Setswana.  Since I am still learning Setswana, I spend quite a lot of time straining to understand conversations. Eventually, I stop trying and mentally check out, overwhelmed by the rapid stream of words and caught up in their undulating rhythm. I often wonder if this is a small, much easier glimpse into what people who aren’t native English speakers must experience living in the US.

To help keep myself engaged and occupied during these times, I created a game for myself. Rules below! I’m currently accepting applications for the game name, patent pending 😉

Goal: For every hour that you spend listening to a conversation in a language that you’re learning, identify a number of words equal to the number of days you’ve spent learning the language (ex. if you’ve been learning Setswana for 150 days, try to identify 150 words in a 1 hour session)


  1. Do not count acronyms or words in your primary language (for me, that’s English).
  2. If words are part of a common phrase (for example, ka morago ga is a phrase in Setswana that translates to “after that”), count the entire phrase as one point.
  3. If you can understand a whole sentence, give yourself 10 points automatically, you rockstar!
  4. Count surreptitiously on your fingers without arousing anyone’s suspicions.
  5. If you manage to hit the goal, reward yourself!  I recommend some Lemon Creams- yum.

Do you have any name suggestions or other games for how to keep yourself engaged when listening to a conversation in another language? Leave them below in the comments!


2 thoughts on “Lost in Translation

  1. I’m glad to see you have such a positive attitude towards a challenge like language learning. It’s frustrating and hard and anything you can do to stay motivated is great. It will come. You’ve come a long way already!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s