Half of learning any language is anticipation of what is to come.

Some people are experts at that. They finish your sentences for you. While hardly anything compares with that for annoyance, it is a useful lesson in language acquisition. Knowing the context of conversation and anticipating what is to come next is crucial. So part of the ability to speak any language lies in knowing the culture of which it’s a part. Unfortunately the locals don’t always want you to learn their language. That’s why learning Thai was the hardest thing I ever did in my life, not the difficulty of the language itself, not learning how to correctly mispronounce all the English loanwords they absorb like dirty dishwater, not the dreaded tones. The hardest part was the disbelief and sometimes even outright hostility of the people themselves, as if they were diminished by my success, as if they could prove the complexity of their language and, by extension, their mentality, by simply refusing to acknowledge me. Of course, they proved just the opposite.

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