Most of us have tried to learn a language at one point or another. For many this attempt came in the form of a required class in school. We had to learn French (or whatever language) and would show up to class (maybe?) and endure the lesson. Trying to learn a language without the motivation necessary usually ends up as an exercise in futility, as many teachers can attest to, including and perhaps especially, my own.
In Queretaro there seem to be two well-known facts about Canada. Canada is cold and the people speak English and French. While I always affirm the former statement, I often correct the latter. I explain that while we all take French classes in school, most of the population does not know how to speak it. We are taught the language, but rarely learn it.
But why is this? There are a complexity of reasons, but one glaring cause of this inefficiency is the severing of the language from its social context. What do I mean by that? I mean we try learn a language which we do not need or require, other than some possible necessity in the distant future. For example, if you do not know anyone who speaks French there is little motivation to learn the language. Furthermore, having access to native speakers gives you a social context within which you can use your newly acquired language skills, and this will foster a conducive learning environment. Language then moves from a subject in school or a grade on an exam to a means of communication.
That is why we are grateful to be smack dab in the middle of the Spanish language. We are able to be connected to its social context, which provides motivation and meaning to our language studies. Of course there are hours spent in the classroom or at home nurturing young children, and it would not be difficult to isolate ourselves from our Mexican community. But the opportunity is there for the taking.
What we have found is that as we begin to make social connections we are more and more motivated to learn the Spanish language. This doesn’t magically make the learning easy. Simply being immersed is not enough because language acquisition does not happen by osmosis. It takes an incredible amount of persistence, patience and perspiration. But being part of a network of people provides the motivation to keep going even when you feel like your head will burst from all the new words being shoved inside. It also provides real, meaningful relationships which provide a place for language output. The new words you are learning are not strange words in a textbook, but are given tangible meaning and become tools for relationship building.
All of this is absolutely fundamental not only to mission work, but to the life of any Christian. We live in this broken world as ones who have been transformed by the Healer of everything. If we cannot communicate this good news we are robbed of one of the greatest joys in life, not to mention the ability to carry out God’s great commission. God himself has spoken to us with words and so words become essential to the communication of the good news of Jesus. This has become all the more clear to us as we attempt to cross over into another language to do exactly that. Many times we have desired to be able to say more, but we cannot…yet.
Next time we’d like to introduce you to some of the people who make up our language learning network. Please continue to pray that God would give us what we need to learn to communicate in the Spanish language and to witness to His glory as we do so. And we thank you for the many prayers already lifted up to His throne on our behalf.