For so many reasons, learn the language.
When I reached proficiency in my second language, many people expressed how excited they were for my new skill.
“You’ll be able to help other people and share God’s love around the world!” was a commonly expressed sentiment.
But my own life, understanding of God, people, and the world, has been so deeply enriched because of my second and subsequent language learning experiences. I have been deeply changed by the faith, friendship, love, and sacrifice of friends around the world because I understood not only the words they were saying, but also the cultural meanings behind them.
Language study is such a vital part of the life we live as international workers. It slowly brings out the depths of a culture that a casual or short term observer may never experience. Wherever we do life, communication with others is essential and either enhances or hinders everything we do.
No- we’ll never get the language perfect.
No- we may never reach the point of sounding exactly like a national speaker of our host country.
Yes- we will occasionally be laughed at and misunderstood.
(And I can almost promise you that eventually, there will be moments of anger or sadness when you wish you didn’t understand the language).
Yes- learning the language is difficult, time consuming, and not everyone will understand the importance of it.
Yes- you will get discouraged and want to quit but, if you persist, it will change your life and hopefully the lives of others.
You will be tempted to get busy with “real” work when language study gets difficult. You may feel like you’re doing nothing when you see the fruitful work of others who have lived in your host country longer than you.
But without this vital experience, there may be no effective, lasting, real work.
During our first month in South Asia, our team leader wisely said:
“Learn the language. Don’t sacrifice the future for the present.”
You probably began this journey with the desire to help others be reconciled to their Creator; to experience and worship Jesus through the beauty of their own culture. To walk alongside friends in your host nation as God does His work in their lives. To see brothers and sisters bring glory to Him with the unique traditions of their people groups. To share in fruitful partnerships as they reach the world with the Good News.
These opportunities for co-laboring aren’t likely to happen if you have everything to teach, but nothing to learn. So embrace your humble beginnings in this new life situation (which can broaden your way of thinking– if you let it) and learn. Starting with the language.
©2018Chrissy Winslow – All Rights Reserved
Thanks for reading!
❤ , Chrissy
Learn the Language is the beginning of a sub category under Dear International Worker. I’m studying a new language again. As I share from previous and current learning experiences, I hope my words encourage you. I’m simultaneously feeling the blessings and healthy levels of discomfort of being a learner in our new host country.
- Follow this link for one global worker’s perspective on language study:
Why I’m Learning One of the Hardest Languages in the World