“It requires time, dedication, and a willingness to fail.”
Truly learning another language must include learning that culture as well. Language is a subset of culture, and ideally would be learned while living in the culture. Some people have a gift or aptitude for learning languages and it comes easily for them, and some have found it to be one of the most difficult challenges of their lives.
Here’s a quote from a former language school student: “Most adults do not know how to handle the humiliation of learning a new language, of having people give them confused stares, just outright laughing at them, or becoming angry because you’re in their country and can’t speak the language. Many people in my language school suffered from loss of identity and inferiority. These were well educated people who had been successful in their occupations back home. Now they were learning language full-time and couldn’t understand why they were having such a hard time. Being smart does not guarantee that you will find learning language easy.”
People who are willing to risk making mistakes tend to do better than those who are fearful of saying something wrong. Those that tend to have a more relational-type personality do better than those who are more introverted.
Learning another language takes time, much dedication, and the desire to communicate at a heart level with others. It is not simply an academic course you take. Even after gaining a high level of fluency, it is a lifelong process of learning and growing.
Answer from Dick with Christ for the City International, who has served in Costa Rica and the United States for thirty years.
“See how four former missionaries address this question and several others.”
The GOer Group videos are a free seven-lesson series addressing the major questions and barriers many encounter as they pursue cross-cultural ministry. Each video features insights and advice from experienced people who have either spent time on the mission field or have helped many people to get there. Though speaking to college students, many issues come up for those of all ages.In this video, former missionaries Matt, Lindsey, Samuel, and Joseph address the following questions:
1. What is it like to learn another language?
2. What is culture shock?
3. What is a wartime lifestyle and how much should missionaries own?
4. Should singles go the mission field without being married?
5. What is like having a family on the field?
6. What do you do about team conflict?
7. What was your most surprising struggle on the field?
8. What was the most difficult thing about coming back to the U.S.?
9. What was the best part of your time overseas?
GOer Groups, Lesson 6: On-Field Realities. These videos were produced by the Center for Mission Mobilization.
Here is a fun encouraging read about the joy of learning culture and language as shared by several Ethnos 360 members doing Bible translation.