I’m noticing something: just because you can do something in a classroom, like understand sentences and speak sentences in return, doesn’t mean you can do it in a loud, crowded market. In the classroom there’s no pressure, the teacher pronounces everything clearly, and you have all the time you need to think of a reply. In the market, the more you look like you don’t know, the higher the price you might pay. Plus it’s noisy, the accents are thick (and fast! Geez, people!), and people can be in a hurry. I’m pretty sure the several bagfulls of fruits and veggies I just brought home should have cost less than the $4.50 Canadian that I paid for them, but I was pretty much at the mercy of the market ladies, and I’m pretty sure they knew it. Not that I blame them. It is kind of comical, and if I was them, I’d probably be charging a Nairobi-sized foreigner tax!
Next time I might stake out the stalls I want to buy from and wait for someone to buy what I want and see what they pay. Problem is, at this stage in our language study I have to translate it all in my head while doing the math, filtering out the words I don’t know, while remembering what the thing I want is called, how to put all the words and tones together, nevermind remembering all the counting words and pronunciation rules for how to shape all these sounds that I want to come out of my mouth.
Really, you can’t think about all that stuff or you’ll never speak. At this stage of language learning — just beyond single nouns and numbers and finger pointing but still having to translate everything in your head on the fly — you just have to give them what you’ve got, assume their laughter is good natured, and enjoy the real life practice where messing up has virtually no real consequences. Anyway, back to the books and the mp3s; we have to buy more rice tomorrow!