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Posted by: cuzx ( )
Date: March 27, 2023 03:31AM

My mission experience (Argentina Buenos Aires South, 1975-1977) helped me immensely in studying three additional languages: Italian and Portuguese at BYU and Korean at DLI (the Defense Language Institute).

At the end of my mission in Mar Del Plata, Argentina, we lived for a few months with an Italian immigrant family. As one of my grandparents was Italian, it really piqued my interest to learn more.

Back at BYU, I was lucky to get one of the most talented language instructors (no longer Mormon, BTW) for my first two semesters of Italian. Excellent department. Brilliant educators.

Post BYU, I became a Korean linguist in the Army; I attended the 48-week Korean Basic Course in Monterey, California, and, after more language training in San Angelo, Texas, and Fort Devens, Massachusetts, I was assigned to a tactical signals intelligence unit for three years in Hawaii.

In 1985, my wife didn't want to continue life as an Army wife, so I left active duty, attended CSU in Long Beach, and began a 30-year teaching career in Spanish.

Looking back, I regret not continuing in the Army reserves beyond my initial term of service. We also returned to church attendance after more than two years of blissful inactivity in Hawaii. But that's a story for another day...

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Posted by: slskipper ( )
Date: March 27, 2023 06:50AM

You can get the same benefit via several different methods: the Peace Corps, or Study Abroad, or (more and more), the internet. Yes, I learned a new language- but I totally missed out on learning to appreciate a different culture. I was too busy telling the people that their culture was evil because it did not originate in Riverton, Utah.

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Posted by: unconventional ( )
Date: March 27, 2023 07:10AM

Back then, we didn’t have the internet, but yes, now you can become fluent via the internet, and I’m not talking an app. I’m talking one-on-one conversations with native speakers multiple times a week.

Most people don’t understand the effort required to truly master a foreign language.

A mission was critical for us back then if we were truly interested in doing that. A few of us were.

So glad I got my 20 years in the military with a combination of active duty, reserves, and national guard. It really makes our current early retirement possible.

All of this for me really can be traced back to the mission days.

Yes, I resigned from the Mormon Church. The mission experience to Germany though was a byproduct of being Mormon. It was the classic “if life gives you lemons, then make lemonade.”

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Posted by: Done & Done ( )
Date: March 27, 2023 10:49AM

Argentina South 69-71. I love the country and the people and the food. The mission was a duty. I was an automatic Mormon. Turned nineteen and went on the mission without even considering whether I wanted to or not. Duty. Family honor. Conveyer belt. I was horrified at the number of Elders who constantly put down the people with an air of Mormon American superiority. That was a wake up call for me as I found the Argentines were expanding my world view and realized I had little to offer them in return though I was loath to admit that since I still believed.

You get out what you put in even in a bad situation. My mission turned my life around. I unknowingly but desperately needed to be picked up out of my all Mormon mountain town and county and dropped down somewhere that shook everything up. It was like holding your life up to a light and looking at it from a new angle and seeing that which cannot be unseen again.

I speak Spanish at work all day now as many here are bi-lingual or only speak a little English. I learned Italian as I had been many times I love Italy and wanted to speak the language next time I went back. Speaking Spanish made it so much easier. Still need to train my ear a bit in Italian but can say whatever I want.

Sometimes I think that like the phrase, "It is better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all", that it was perhaps for me, "better to have been extreme Mormon and then to have found my way out than never to have been Mormon at all". Know what I mean?


Still there was a big down side to having been Mormon and some of it still lingers. Nice post cuzx.

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Posted by: Lot's Wife ( )
Date: March 27, 2023 02:06PM

I have long said, cuzx, that

- 60% of missionaries come back having learned absolutely nothing about the world,

- 30% come back with a love for the local cuisine and perhaps a local wife, and

- 10% come back completely transformed by the experience.

You were in the 10%; I was too. So were D&D and many, many more of us RfMers. Speaking autobiographically, a mission can simultaneously be the worst experience of a lifetime and one of the best.

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Posted by: Silence is Golden ( )
Date: March 27, 2023 03:11PM

Lot's Wife Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
>
>
> You were in the 10%; I was too. So were D&D and
> many, many more of us RfMers. Speaking
> autobiographically, a mission can simultaneously
> be the worst experience of a lifetime and one of
> the best.


I love this line, it pretty well sums it up. I tell many TBM's that my mission was the worst two years of my life. Ninety Nine percent of the time they gasp and say, "Do you really mean that?" I nod yes and they say something that justifies their feelings and second handedly discounts mine.

But, if it was not for that two years, I would not be where I am today. So you are right, it was my worst two years, but in the end one of the best.

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Posted by: unconventional ( )
Date: March 27, 2023 09:46PM

Seen over the long run, those of us who didn’t have a choice about a mission, and who went and made the best of it, can see it as a key part of our lives.

That is because it was tough, and we made our way through. Of course, when you walk away fluent in a new language and keep building on that the rest of your life, well that’s an added benefit.

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Posted by: unconventional ( )
Date: March 27, 2023 05:05PM

I was definitely in the 10%

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Posted by: T-Bone ( )
Date: March 30, 2023 12:52PM

Just a few random experiences that happened in college. I lived in Japan for 10 years before going back to finish college. I was fluent in Japanese when I started, and cruised through the classes.

My classmates were mostly guys who had lived in Japan as missionaries. Most were nice guys, just a bit delusional. They were told that they were given special powers because they were missionaries. Anecdotally, I think that made some of them a little lazy. There were a few guys that spoke ok Japanese, but many of them were embarrassingly bad.

Here's an example. There was a big, burly guy who spoke like a high school girl. Our professor used to just cringe when this guy talked. Why? He spent most of his time in Japan flirting with high school girls. He was good-looking, and I'm sure they enjoyed flirting with him.

But Japanese, to the chagrin of many Westerners, is a very different language. Men and women have completely different ways of speaking. Women and men use completely different verb endings, and there are different words for men and women. Just the word "I" has multiple words. It depends on your status compared to the person you're speaking with, and men and women have different ways to say "I". So imagine what happens when a big American boy sounds like a high school girl. It made all the Japanese exchange students on campus giggle. They thought he was trolling because he spoke with such confidence because, after all, he had magical powers.

The odd thing was that after living in Japan for 10 years, I was able to pass myself off as Japanese on the phone. I could make a hotel reservation and they didn't know I was not Japanese until they asked for my name. When I gave them my real name, they'd sometimes say, "What's your real name? We don't take pseudonyms. It has to be the same name as your ID for when you check in." Then I'd disclose that I'm not Japanese and they'd get surprised.

But often when somebody needed a Japanese document translated, they'd ask an RM. I had worked as a translator, and specialized in IT. But often this work went to an RM because Mormons trusted them over somebody who had experience and who had lived in Japan for 10 years.

Here's another cruel trick that happens when you study Japanese. Every Japanese person you meet will tell you that you're the best Japanese-speaking foreigner they've ever met. If you let that go to your head, you stop making effort. It happened to me. I eventually started progressing again, but it takes a lot of effort to get off your butt when you're already "the best".

So a lot of these guys ended up falling prey to the phenomenon known as "fossilization". This is a problem with language learners who learn a little (or a lot) and then just stop progressing. Most of the RMs in my language program had fossilized, or they learned workarounds. If they didn't know the word for something, they'd describe it. "18 wheeler" became "really big truck", for example. On top of that, most Japanese are too timid to tell you that you speak like a 5 year old. They just smile and let you talk.

And when you've been told that you're blessed with magical gifts, why work harder?

But probably the biggest problem with being a missionary in Japan is that they're told NOT to study the written language. But that's the key to understanding the culture. If you don't understand the written language, you miss so much.

But I get it. Japanese is a notoriously difficult language to learn, with its 2 alphabets and thousands of characters. The characters have no consistency when it comes to pronunciation. The same character can have different readings based on the time period it was imported into Japan from China and whether it's used on its own, as a compound, in a place name, or as a person's name.
原 for example, can be pronounced gen, hara, or wara, just to name a few pronunciations. I probably missed a few.

The problem is, when these guys who were told they are the best for 2 years start to actually study the written language, they are completely lost.

I almost forgot, the RMs learned a really quirky way to conjugate verbs at the MTC. It kinda worked, but no Japanese professor taught that way. Our professors, who were not Mormons, made them start over again. It really threw them for a loop when they found out the magical way they had learned to conjugate verbs didn't work in the real world.

So I argue that to really learn a language like Japanese, the best way is to live in Japan, get a Japanese girlfriend (or boyfriend) and get a job where you HAVE to speak Japanese every day. And don't live in Tokyo. There are too many people who see you as their free English teacher. Live in the country where nobody speaks English.

Last part of my rant. Anime is the worst way to learn Japanese. Period.

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Posted by: Brother Of Jerry ( )
Date: March 30, 2023 01:50PM

Thanks for your post. Very informative.

I decided Portuguese was one of the easiest languages for an English speaker to learn, even easier than Spanish. I was pretty good at speaking Portuguese by the time I left Brazil, but I am one of those people that fossilized, and atrophied, truth be told.

I went back for a visit in the 1990s, and again in 2018 and 2021. I could get by, but between declining hearing (making even English a challenge - don’t get me started on Masterpiece Theater!) and weak vocabulary, communicating was pretty rudimentary. I was a bit surprised and disappointed.

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Posted by: unconventional ( )
Date: March 30, 2023 02:49PM

I learned and mastered German as a result of high school and the mission. Since, I have even improved it, but that has been through a lot of effort.

Also, now I am fluent in Spanish, and I have an opinion of how “easy” Spanish is.

Well, comparing it with German, it’s just as hard to master.

My thought about those who say it’s easy is that they think it’s easy to get by. If you want to achieve excellence in Spanish, you’ve got yourself a life long project on your hands.

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Posted by: Brother Of Jerry ( )
Date: March 30, 2023 03:13PM

I took HS German, and the 3 genders and 4 cases of "the" drove me up a wall. The vocabulary was easy enough to acquire, what with the relation to English.

Portuguese had 2 genders and 1 case for "the", and usually the gender was obvious from the noun. Spanish picked up a few quirks from Arabic, that Portuguese missed. That complicates Spanish a bit. Other things that endeared me to Portuguese were a small number of irregular verbs, most of which were irregular in one of three patterns. {"to be" of course seems always to be a mess] And the spelling was always always always phonetic. They have a few idiosyncratic rules that are easily mastered, but basically if you can say it you can spell it, and vice versa.

When I visited Spain, I was surprised to find out that Catalan is quite similar to Portuguese even though it is on the other side of the country. I think both languages escaped the Moorish influence. I was able to read tourist level Spanish and Catalan no problem, but understanding the spoken languages was for the most part a lost cause.


I agree that real native proficiency would require decades and a lot of exposure over those decades. I fantasize about moving to Portugal for 6 months some day, but I would be astonished if it ever happened, and even that would just get me back up to mediocre proficiency.

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Posted by: unconventional ( )
Date: March 31, 2023 03:13PM

Hope somehow you can make your fantasies about moving to Portugal come true. It can be done.

I’m living that life, and it all started with fantasies.

Of course a lot more went into it, but I can’t not mention the roots.

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Posted by: cludgie ( )
Date: April 15, 2023 10:03PM

I LOVES me some German grammar! It really suits a pedantic grammarian like me.

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Posted by: Ramon Glyde ( )
Date: April 14, 2023 07:52PM

What an excellent and accurate portrayal of learning Japanese. Although the mission did get me to reassess and leave the church, I did, for some reason, actually have magical powers for that language. I still get to charge an exorbitant fee for simultaneous interpretation work in court and private industry.

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Posted by: slskipper ( )
Date: March 30, 2023 03:05PM

My father was physically unable to believe that I was telling the truth when I said that my mission was the most miserable two years of my life.

He finally started to grasp the concept- about three weeks before he died.

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Posted by: GC ( )
Date: April 01, 2023 11:40PM

My mission to Belgium and France was easily the worst two years of my life -- and I'm now in my early 60s. But learning French was a good thing for future employment in Europe and with the Gov't of Canada.

And understanding the structure of French is now helping me with Spanish -- so the two years wasn't a complete waste!

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Posted by: wowbagger ( )
Date: April 05, 2023 08:25AM

GC Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> My mission to Belgium and France was easily the
> worst two years of my life -- and I'm now in my
> early 60s. But learning French was a good thing
> for future employment in Europe and with the Gov't
> of Canada.
>
> And understanding the structure of French is now
> helping me with Spanish -- so the two years wasn't
> a complete waste!

Je te connais?

J'etais a Bruxelles, Strasbourg, Metz et St Quentin '81-'83.

Je suis d'Ottawa, et meme aujourd'hui, avec une femme francaise, j'ai du mal a m'habituer a l'accent d'ici

My mission was life changing because I met my wife there, and I learned even more about French culture than I did in high school, immersion programs, and college

It largely sucked, but did not give me PTSD, just an overwhelming sense of losing my math skills and 'edge' as I came back and headed toward grad school

Would not change it, since my wife is the best decision I ever made, but wish I could have avoided the 'best 18 months of my life' (yeah, I was a lucky one with a short mission)

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Posted by: wowbagger ( )
Date: April 05, 2023 09:15AM

oops wrong spot



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 04/05/2023 09:15AM by wowbagger.

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Posted by: wowbagger ( )
Date: April 05, 2023 09:33AM

grrrr wrong spot again

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Posted by: unconventional ( )
Date: April 02, 2023 08:52AM

And total mastery of a language is a window into a whole new world. It’s not just about job prospects, or tourist travel.

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Posted by: Lot's Wife ( )
Date: April 02, 2023 11:52AM

Absolutely true.

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Posted by: cludgie ( )
Date: April 04, 2023 06:25PM

I'll one-up you here: I served in the original Italian Mission, 1969-1971. A couple of years after returning, I joined the Air Force I got trained as a Chinese linguist. Military linguists are always part of the four branches' Cryptologic Service Agencies, and all work for NSA. I spent five years flying on a recon aircraft based in Japan, and hated it. I tried to transfer to a more normal AF career, but linguists were not allowed to transfer out of the career field. They did, however, allow mr.e to train in a different language. I chose German (back in the old Communist East German days), stayed there almost to my retirement, when I was transferred to work right at NSA until my retirement (21 years) shortly afterwards. My new civilian bosses really liked me because I scored so highly on all my periodic language testing. When I retired, they kept me on right in the same office. One day day another agency (no, not CIA) called me out of the blue and said they had heard I knew Italian, and offered me a job in the Rome embassy. That began a s whole new career as a civilian, where I worked until retirement at 22 years. I hated my mission, and am embarrassed because of it to this day. When I express how I feel, my wife chimes in sand reminds me that the mission gave me a whole new career with a very good retirement. I guess she's right. Still, I continue to be uncomfortable about having been a Mormon missionary.

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Posted by: unconventional ( )
Date: April 04, 2023 08:37PM

Oh, not a one-up. It’s an interesting story. Thanks for sharing.

I loved my mission because it was the biggest adventure in my life at the time.

Now, I’m embarrassed that I did it, but don’t hate it. It was the only option I had. Can’t change that.

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Posted by: Phantom Shadow ( )
Date: April 04, 2023 11:51PM

Adios muchachos, compañeros de mi vida.

DH and I met on our missions to Argentina in 1963. We worked together in a branch and got to be friends. We met following a missionary conference held at Belgrano branch with Area Supervisor A. Theodore Tuttle. In my interview with him, Tuttle asked if I had a boyfriend, and I said yes, in the Southern States mission. He told me not to be in a big hurry, there were many good elders in Argentina. I wanted to ask if he was giving me a license to husband hunt, but I was new and didn't dare. I met my DH later the same day.

Long story, but in 1984 we were able to go back and spend a month in Argentina. By then we were into tangos and Carlos Cardel. Saw lots of members from the old days and spent time with one of my former companions.

We've been back several times since, but 2004 was the last time. We were in Buenos Aires.

DH made friends with the kids wherever he was and they loved teaching him proper Spanish. I had 2 Argentine companions and went weeks without speaking English. To prepare for our '84 visit we watched telenovelas--Rosa De Lejos was one, and read books in Spanish by Argentine authors.

Still remember most of the dichos my Argentine companions taught me, for example:

Para cada hombre feo nace una mujer sin gusto.

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Posted by: elderolddog ( )
Date: April 05, 2023 01:26AM

Cuando estuve en Mexico, nos llegó un cuento de Argentina tocante a una vecindad pública, muy grande, con artos edificios.  Cada edificio tenía su propio identifición, usando letras y numeros.  Pero aun estando, en totál, muy popular, habia uno de los edificios donde nadie quería vivir, el P-2 . . .

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Posted by: Lot's Wife ( )
Date: April 05, 2023 01:30AM

Are you suggesting, Mr. The Jesus, that that was the Great and Spacious Building of which we have all heard so much?

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Posted by: elderolddog ( )
Date: April 05, 2023 01:45AM

You may have run it thru Google translate, but the funny part is only apparent to people who went above and beyond in their study of el idioma de Dios.

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Posted by: Lot's Wife ( )
Date: April 05, 2023 02:33AM

D'oh!

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Posted by: wowbagger ( )
Date: April 05, 2023 09:15AM

assume p-2 is p-dos or pedos?

I had to use google translate TWICE

Jesus!! Jesus; no fart jokes here


I like the car the MR2 in France

m-r-deux or merde

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Posted by: Lot's Wife ( )
Date: April 17, 2023 04:29AM

I don't know much Spanish, but it seems to me that Phantom Shadow's quip should be adjusted to encompass EOD's lifetime achievements. Thus. . .

"Por cada hombre feo nacen varias mujeres sin gusto."

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Posted by: cuzx ( )
Date: April 17, 2023 05:23AM

Lot's Wife Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> "Por cada hombre feo nacen varias mujeres sin
> gusto."

We used to joke as misioneros and, instead of saying "mucho gusto" (pleased to meet you), or "el gusto es mío" (the pleasure is mine), we would rejoinder "mucho susto" (much fright).



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 04/17/2023 05:29AM by cuzx.

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Posted by: Lot's Wife ( )
Date: April 17, 2023 05:16PM

We committed those unintentionally, and sometimes intentional, infelicities all the time.

On a different topic, the now-defunct Far Eastern Economic Review used to have two pages per week of photos of signs in which the English was awkward or nonsensical. I can't find any examples right now, but they were absolutely hilarious.

Here are examples of the sort.

https://duckduckgo.com/?t=ffab&q=funny+english+signs+in+east+asia&iax=images&ia=images

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Posted by: elderolddog ( )
Date: April 17, 2023 06:14PM

Phantom Shadow Wrote:
---------------------------

>
> Para cada hombre feo nace
> una mujer sin gusto.


De vez en cuando nos enfrentamos con una persona y es bien propio decir, 'El susto es mio.'

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Posted by: cuzx ( )
Date: April 17, 2023 04:16AM

You're good people. I'll try to be better (seven years into early retirement from public school teaching).

Thank you for the anecdotes: el edificio P-2 (EOD) and la voiture MR2 (wowbagger).

CuzX

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