When a child is born, she is capable of recognizing every sound possible. As she grows, she loses this ability. She only retains those sounds common in the world around, her native tongue or tongues. How do we know this? Well, linguists did experiments. They had tapes of the same sound being played over and over: “bee…bee…bee”. They gave babies special nookies—ones with sensors attached that monitored the frequency and strength of their sucking. With new stimuli, a new sound for example, a baby will increase frequency and strength of their sucking. As the grow accustomed to the stimuli, the return to a base rate. Scientists found that overtime, children lost the example to distinguish sounds.
As adults, this lack of ability to hear different sounds and differentiate them is a key difficulty in learning new languages. So, we find ways to imitate. We connect what is new to the world we already know. When trying to help Spanish students roll their Rs, we tell them to say a D and a R quickly together.
The same happens as we try to describe new phenomenon, food, or places. We say that the new dish tastes like that old favorite. Or Pepsi tastes like coke only sweeter.
I find myself in the same situation right now. I am trying to describe Almaty in a way I can understand, in a way S can understand, in a way home can understand. I say things like: oh, I loved the green market, it was just like markets in Chile or if you go down that street, it is kind of like walking in Patronato, in Santiago, Chile or wow! the pizza at Pizza Hut in Almaty tastes just like that at home or its like Moldova only fancy.
How do I describe this place for what it is and not based on what I already know?