Archive for December 8, 2007

“The Tongue Leads to Kyiv” and other proverbs

One old proverb that I heard several times while living in Ukraine was “The tongue leads to Kyiv.”  That essentially means that you can get to your destination if you know the right language to ask questions of people.  I had done just that about a month ago when I was looking for the office building for the place I now work.  My young, Korean-Kazakh boss who has been to America and loves everything about it was amazed that I found her office on my own.  She did not have to fetch me as we had previously arranged.  I said that I knew how to ask different people in Russian and then she repeated the proverb which is suitable to use even in Central Asia, “The tongue leads to Kyiv.” 

Another proverb I’ve run across lately as I’ve been poring over applications for the Muskie program is the Central Asian saying:  “Studying is like digging a well with the needle.”  I’m not sure what it really means except that education is highly prized and that it takes work.  I need to find out more from language experts. 

Here are a few more proverbs I came across in the applications from Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan  

“A foreign language is a weapon in the struggle of life.”   

“He who doesn’t know a foreign language doesn’t know his own language.” 

So much else I’ve gleaned from reading the project statements of these hard working individuals who want a chance to study in the U.S. in a M.A. degree program.  Only a few will be chosen, many applicants have succeeded against all odds to get where they are today as English teachers, lawyers, policy makers, journalists or librarians.  I’ve been looking at these five disciplines and I wish many of them could get this opportunity to study at our American universities.  Turkmenistan has been especially behind the 8 ball, but I’ll write more on that later. 

Much to know about Central Asia, it does seem like “digging a well with a needle.”  Learning is never ending.

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