The reason you are on the mission field is to win lost souls, disciple them and train them to do the work of the Lord! How can you do this if you don’t know their heart language? You can’t win someone to the Lord talking “Tarzan talk” to them! On the other hand, how will you live day to day as a missionary wife? How will you go to the market by yourself, explain to a sitter how to take care of your kids, order a pizza on the phone, pay bills, get your driver’s license, talk to your doctor about your child’s health needs and the list goes on and on! If you can’t do these alone, you will be dependent on your husband to take you everywhere and then he won’t have time for ministry. You must learn the language to not only to survive but to thrive in another culture! Your life on the mission field should not be much different than in the states. If you can do all the above mentioned things plus ministry in the states, you can on the mission field….but only if you learn the language! In the long run, it is rewarding to learn the language!
Hebrews 12:11 Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.
It’s very humbling to speak like a child, be made fun of by children or be corrected by another adult! I remember a girl telling me after 4 years of learning Spanish that I should stop saying, “¿Qué horas son? and say “¿Qué hora es?” She said when I said the first one it sounded like “¡Que Corazón!” Only you Spanish speakers will understand this, but she said it sounded like I was saying “What Heart!” You never forget when you are corrected! I felt so humiliated because I had already been speaking Spanish for a few years! Another time I taught an entire lesson on being content and when I was done, a lady came to me and said that the word I kept using over and over was a very bad word. I had exchanged an “a” for the “e” in the word and without knowing had cussed them out the entire lesson! Talk about being humiliated! I wanted to sink through the floor!
You will have to leave your children a few hours a day in order to go through language school. You must focus on language a few hours each day with a teacher. You will feel like a working mom leaving her kids at home but just remember that it is this stage of life and will soon pass! I started language school with an 8 week old nursing baby that I had to leave every day for 5 hours. It was tough but I wouldn’t have been able to learn the language any other way.
Stick with it and finish it out!
“And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord.” Colo.3:23
Learning a language is demanding of your time and mental energy! Add this to the fact that you are also learning to deal with cultural issues and adjusting to being away from family and friends and everything familiar. YOU NEED THE WORD OF GOD EVERY SINGLE DAY! Make some adjustments in your schedule and have time with the Lord. I can’t stress this enough. You must be growing spiritually daily or you will be spiritually “on empty” every day. Pray for the Lord to give you strength daily as you work at the language.
“In the day when I cried thou answeredst me,
and strengthenedst me with strength in my soul.” Psalm 138:3
‘Outside the Box’ ways to practice the Language
- Get involved in the local church. You won’t be able to teach a Sunday school class right away, but you can serve in many ways that will help you immerse with the people and language. Go on retreats, sing in the choir, serve in nursery, go on visitation, help the church secretary. Do everything you can to immerse yourself in the language.
- What if they already know English as a second language? If you live in a country where the people know some English, you may have to explain to every person that you would rather speak their language because you are learning. If you don’t know a word, ask them what it is in English and repeat it back to them several times until you have it in your head.
- Carry a notepad around with you everywhere you go. Write down words you see in the market, on the street, in the grocery store, and on signs. In the church services, write down every word you understand in the message. Pretty soon you will find that you are understanding so much you can’t keep up with writing them all down. At this point, write down every word you don’t understand. The next day ask your teacher what these words mean.
- Invite a friend to go with you to the market or store and have them help you right away with the pronunciation and meanings of different things. The first question you should learn in any language should be, “What is this?”
- Have fun learning! Play board games with the nationals. One game that would force you to speak to them is Rory’s Story Cubes, Guess Who, Hedbanz or any game where English is not involved. If you feel funny playing kid games with adults, play them with children! They will have fun and you will learn some new words! Be sure to continually ask them to correct you when you say something wrong!
- Watch the news in the native language. Usually the news anchors will speak with the best grammar. At first it may seem like gibberish because they speak so quickly, but after a while you will start picking out some words. Most people who successfully learn a language spend a good amount of time each day listening to the radio or watching the national news.
- Hang out at the park (especially if you have children) and listen to the children yelling things at each other. Listen to mothers giving instructions or commands to their children. Write them down!
- Read your Bible in the national language. At first it may take you an hour to get through one chapter. Look up each word in the dictionary so you are understanding it. Be careful to not let this substitute your daily walk with the Lord. If you aren’t understanding anything you aren’t being spiritually filled. This also will be difficult in languages that do not use the Roman alphabet (what we use in English) until you learn the characters that make up your alphabet.
- Read the Bible to anyone who will listen to you. Memorize Bible verses.
- Learn to cook the food in the country where you are living. Ask another woman to go with you to the market, buy everything you need to cook the national food, go home and prepare an entire meal from start to finish. Invite national friends for dinner and — BOOM! you have just spent a few hours “learning the language” and having fun, not to mention learning LOTS about culture!
These are all ways for you to have to USE what you are learning. Practice, practice, practice!
Remember that this too shall pass! Language school will pass….but learning the language will never pass. You may be comfortable after a while in the language but you will always be learning.
I know we have many readers who are continually learning a language. What are some ideas that have been helpful for you in learning a foreign language?