Very soon after I met M, I wanted to learn more about his language. Due to some inconsistencies in M's story, for a little while I thought that language was Malay. When the truth came out, I realized it was Urdu. Do you know how hard it is to try and learn Urdu? I will answer for you. It is very hard. There are almost no books, no tapes, no cds. It was even worse six years ago. I guarantee that your local Barnes & Noble won't carry any. I found one book & tape set online (of the Teach Yourself series) that was all but useless. I found a "Colloquial Urdu" book and cd at M's school library, but I could only keep that checked out for so long until it had to be returned to the library. So M and I set out to make our own way.
First, we bought a kid's picture dictionary. This particular dictionary was geared toward Spanish speaking kids learning English as a second language. We didn't mind. M just wrote the transliterated Urdu words underneath each picture, and I studied from that for a long time. It was a pretty big big book, and several months into this project, I had amassed a large amount of vocabulary. But, I could still not communicate in Urdu at all.
The problem was (and still is, unfortunately) sentences. Urdu sentences are backwards. Or maybe I am. Like many (most?) languages, it follows a subject-object-verb sentence structure which is not the same as English. This means that when I think of what I want to say, and translate it in my head into Urdu, all my sentences turn out backwards. Another problem with sentences is that there are all the extra bonus words at the end of sentences. Tha, raha, hoon, hay, chucka. All these little leftovers to sort through in my head. Some of this is verb conjugation but some of it truly is just leftover words, I'm convinced of it. I quickly realized that vocabulary wasn't enough - we were going to have to work on sentence structure as well. So we figured that we would just buy another English kid's book, work through translating it together and writing the Urdu at the bottom of the pages, and my Urdu would improve. M said we should start with something easy, so we picked up a Curious George book.
Life intervenes, as always, and while we still worked on the vocabulary book, it was a long time before we ever got around to the sentence structure book. (I admit, I'm stubborn and a bit OCD. I wanted to finish the first book before moving on!) M has had a Curious George book sitting on a shelf in his room for months at this point. But the day finally came, and we sat down with our yellow-covered copy of Curious George Visits The Zoo. We had our pen and we were determined that we were going to go through the book and translate all the sentences together. We opened the book and we both silently read the first page, and then M said:
"Oh. Curious George is a monkey?"