Communication, why are you so difficult?

Communication. It's something we all use in order to have our needs met. From the time we are born we receive visual cues, touch, gesture, and finally words, the one's we receive and the ones we speak. For our every basic and not so basic needs we require some level of communication with those around us. In order to receive love the way we want to be loved, eat what we want to eat, or simply interact within our daily environment, (like, avoid that puddle) we need to have a level of understanding.

I've been struggling with my limited communication skills in my current environment. It's hard not to be understood on a daily basis. Of course, I can still take care of myself. The supermarket is extremely helpful with it's many pictures of food on packaging, or actual food that I can visually recognize. I don't need to know the Hungarian word for mushroom when I can physically pick one up or buy a pasta sauce with a picture of a mushroom on it. It's gomba by the way. Yet, I can't do other important things like, say ask for a plastic bag, or answer the cashier when she is wants to know what kind of tomato this is so she can price it for me.

It's amazing how much you can pick up from visual cues. We went into a shoe store the other day and my friend could say, "I don't speak much Hungarian but do you carry this shoe in size 37?" Well, the sales clerk did not speak any English but somehow we figured out in less than two sentences that this was a specialty shoe store that only carried petite or extra large shoes (under size 34 or over size 42). When we looked around at all the shoes sizes posted on the wall and could see that sizes 35 - 41 were missing, we took the hint. At least we know the word for Thank-You!

Music is a language and it is starting to dawn on me why children can have such a rough time learning how to play an instrument. It's really all about communication. How many times have we struggled to communicate to one of our young students what we would like them to do to create a sound on the piano or trumpet or tap a simple rhythm. They can't do it and the result is frustration, anger, or maybe even tears. How many times have we been on the receiving end of this type of communication because we too, even as trained musicians, couldn't do something that is seemingly so easy?

We have been observing Hungarian music lessons in the classroom over the past few weeks in grades 2, 4, and 6. It's wonderful how attentive and engaged the children appear to be and there doesn't seem to be the same amount of stress that often accompanies a music lesson back home. Don't get me wrong, they are still kids, and the class that is taught in Hungarian stays much more on task than the class that is taught in English. There are a few interesting components to the class. Everything is taught in a holistic way where they use gestures, words, movements, and pitches to communicate simple songs that use maybe 3 - 5 pitches. This is important because when we are learning something complex like music we need to have a variety of cues to help us remember what comes next. They sing a song about a bluebird, they flap their arms like a bird, they form a window when the bird flies through the window, and then they tap the rhythm on their laps and jump to the next child to repeat it all over again. They are using their bodies by repeating a specific action (like paying for your groceries), breaking a part the action incrementally through rhythm clapping (like figuring out a new currency), to finally being able to sing the whole song with movements with relative ease (the whole process of going to the supermarket in the first place).

Every learning experience starts from the ground-up. It's tough being an adult with an incredible emotional capacity for understanding but no vocabulary. I'll try to remember to break it down into smaller pieces because it truly is amazing what you can accomplish one step at a time


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