I love languages and have always learned them rather easily, although most of the five that I speak at a young age. So it felt like a natural consequence for me to study translation at university. My goal was to become a simultaneous interpreter after passing my translator’s diploma, but then I started working in communications and marketing and drifted away from languages. I never actually worked as a translator, but every office I have worked at was very happy to have me translate short texts and letters or check translations for them. I didn’t mind that and enjoyed doing it.
When I applied for the job as Marketing Manager at Raja4Divers, Maya asked me if I was prepared to learn some Bahasa Indonesia (Indonesian) and I answered that this was one of the things I was really looking forward to. I was very eager to learn a new language and naïvely imagined it would be as easy as in my younger years. I guess you know where I’m heading – it turned out a lot more difficult than I thought!
Grammatically, Indonesian is not a difficult language. There are no tenses and no declinations and plural forms are often created by simply repeating the word twice. But even though the vocabulary has some Dutch and English influence, it has no common roots with any Latin or Anglo-Saxon languages that I speak. This makes it hard for me to remember the words, even after repeating them many times and trying to learn them by heart. At the beginning, everybody told me to be patient. «It’ll come in time, you don’t have to rush», they said. Well, I’m not a very patient person, so I wanted to speed up things and ordered a textbook to study in a more structured way. I was convinced, this was going to do the trick and started studying enthusiastically during my lunch breaks. At least for a few weeks.
Unfortunately, the words didn’t stick with me any better than before. The fact that I work at the office here, surrounded by Indonesian ladies who speak perfect English, as well as our German Facility Manger and Maya, with both of whom I speak German, doesn’t really help. I feel a little ashamed of not being able to communicate with our local staff who doesn’t speak English. And it doesn’t make me proud to sit at the staff meeting every morning listening to my colleagues speak a language that I only understand little bits and pieces of. Every day, I tell myself that something has got to change! And then I have a million excuses why I didn’t have time to study again…
A few months ago, I started teaching English to our dive guides. They need to improve their English in order to communicate better with our guests. When they sometimes struggle to pronounce and remember the words in English, I catch myself thinking «Come on guys, it’s not that difficult! Just try a little harder!». But for them, English is just as far away from Bahasa Indonesia as Indonesian is from English for me. Or even further. Who am I to judge them for struggling to learn a completely different language? I’m in no position to be judgmental as long as I don’t speak their language. So I better get down to it and study harder.
Wish me luck!
I never even dreamt of working on a remote island in Indonesia, but life has a way of taking care of itself…