Helping Individuals Learn Language, Understand Cultures
Hi, I'm Terry Marshall. My wife Ann
and I spent seven years with the U.S. Peace Corps, two as Volunteers in the Philippines and three as
Country Directors in the Solomon Islands, Kiribati (Gilbert Islands), and Tuvalu (Ellice Islands). Read my short Solomon Islands story, "By Canoe Into My Father's War." I
also worked two years in the Washington, DC headquarters.
The Philippines Opens Our Eyes to Language Learning
Ann and I studied Tagalog feverishly in Peace Corps training prior to departure for the Philippines.
When we arrived, I gave a short speech in Tagalog at the welcoming ceremony in Tacloban City. After
my speech, people clapped, complimented me on my ability
then told me politely that in Tacloban, they
spoke Waray-Waray, not Tagalog.
After 10 weeks of exhausting study, bam, we started all over
again - this time with no trained language teacher, written materials, or any how-to knowledge.
We quickly realized we had to show native speakers how to teach us their language if we were to
communicate with local folks. We also learned we had to master not only language, but a vast,
complicated, unwritten set of cultural values if we were to get along without offending people.
And guess what? The rewards came. Our new friends exclaimed over our progress. We began to put
the culture-puzzle pieces together.
And we came to understand ourselves and our own heritage at a much deeper level.
The Solomons Presents New Challenges
As Peace Corps Country Directors in the Solomons, once again we had to guide our own language
learning no trained teachers or written materials existed in the local language. More importantly, as
Ann mentions, we had to develop a program
to teach our Volunteers how to learn not one but two languages: Pijin and the language spoken in their
After I returned to the U.S., I expanded on the principles and wrote The Whole World Guide to Language Learning.
Our daughter Leslie, was the first
"guinea pig" in testing the expanded principles: she carried the final manuscript with her as an
exchange student to Sweden. And now she has agreed to be the webmastress for this site.
New Horizons: Tackling Language Learning at Home
Today, were caught up (again!) in what seems a life-long quest to improve our Spanish. This
time, we are using the same techniques we share on this website to explore how we can tap the
rich Spanish-language environment around us. Read our Peru blog.
Our aim is to take language beyond the classroom and into the community; call it "Spanish for the neighborhood." We are also working on ways to maximize language and cultural learning
in travels to other countries, whether for business, education, or vacation.
Besides these interests, I write full time about the personal growth (and heartache) that
can occur through cross-cultural interaction. Beginning in 2008, you will find some of my short
stories and essays on this site. Watch for continuing updates to Terry Marshall fiction and essays.
Anyone Can Learn New Tricks -- Even You
Together with my daughter Leslie we've built this website to share
our ideas about language learning. To be honest, she has done most of the legwork to set up this website. We talked about what we wanted
to share and then she did the research to find popular keywords and wrote the ... what do you call it ... h ... t ... m ... l. When I started
this website, I didn't know what that was. Now I know that it is a programing language used to make websites.
I was born in the days before
computers, and although I find them indispensable in my writing career, they drive me crazy. If you are from my generation -- and you
typed your term papers on a typewriter -- then you know how frustrating it can be to learn new tricks.
I still have my typewriter -- yes, that's me typing on it -- and I still love it. But I can love my typewriter at the same time I
embrace the wonders of the Internet.
After I saw how successful my daughter was (and how much fun she was having) with our language learning website, I decided to build
a website for my new novel. I had just published Soda Springs, and I knew that I
needed the internet to market my book. I created www.TerryMarshallFiction.com. As I mentioned, I'm not a computer whiz. I'm tenacious
and persue my goals with determination, but frankly, sometimes the computer bugs the hell out of me.
I used Site Build It! (SBI!) to create my new website. They provide all the tools that I needed to build my website. I learned
about keywords -- the hooks that bring visitors to my website. I didn't have to learn much about html because they have an easy to learn
interface that let me build my site with blocks of code. I point and click to select the layout for my page, then I type in the text,
and SBI! creates all the "code" in the background. I don't have to worry about any of that technical stuff.
If you think you want to retire, or even if you want
to work from home, I highly recommend this website building
Subscribe to our langugae learning email newsletter to stay abreast of the latest in my language learning odyssey.
Oh, and about that ice-cold Coke...
on the uninhabited island?
Two hours after I made my goofy joke, a trio of young men (who had slipped away unnoticed by me) rowed
back into sight with Cokes for all. Warm, of course.
The lesson learned in the Terry Marshall School of (Cultural) Hard Knocks? Think carefully about
jokes that might be funny in your own culture. Humor doesn't always translate directly - what is clever
in one culture may be troublesome or downright offensive in another.
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