When you are travelling to a foreign country it is always a good idea to at least learn some of the basics of the language, because there may be certain situations where you might end up lost or need help with something and having no clue how to communicate with the locals.
Not everyone in the world knows English, or French for the matter, and it is always considered respectful even flattering to have foreigners learn your language to at least some level.
If you have not read about my first impressions and shopping experience of Mongolia, please do so.
Sounds similar, but I don’t understand anything…
Mongolian and Kazakh have similar language roots and there are many loan words that I happen to learn more about,
There is also a similar style of guttural and harsh sounds both Mongolian and Kazakh have. However, before going to Mongolia, I looked up videos where people were speaking Mongolian. Though it sounded like I could somewhat understand them and even familiar, to be honest it made no sense.
So, I had to do some research. I found the website http://learnmongolianlanguage.com and learned a lot of useful phrases and ways to greet people, ask for directions etc.
Learning the basics
When it comes to learning a language, I think it is the utmost importance to learn the alphabet. Without knowing the alphabet, you have no foundation nor any way to improve your language skills. You are mainly relying on your hearing and written form of words and hearing how they sound can be a problem.
Some words will sound exactly the same, so learn the alphabet before anything! Luckily Kazakh and Mongolian use the Cyrillic alphabet, so it wasn’t bad for me, just needed to learn a few extra letters and distinguish the pronunciations.
Greetings and introductions
Next, is to learn how you can indtroduce yourself to others. Without proper introductions and asking for people’s names you won’t make as many friends nor come off as polite. So learning the basics of saying hi, hello, how are you, and introducing who you are can go a long way.
My host family was nice enough to teach me a lot of phrases like, “sonin hachin” “taivan daa”.
Which means, what is going on, how are you etc.
Talk and talk with people
If you want to improve and get better you have to talk with people and allow them to correct you when necessary. Asking them to stop you and correct you if you are wrong is a really good way to learn about grammar and pronunciation of words.
It can get frustrating when you can’t have a free conversation with people without stopping but it is a learning experience and people who are teaching you will find it flattering that you are trying hard to learn the language and respect their culture.