I don't remember hearing English for the first time - I was only a few seconds old. During the next few years I fulfilled what is expected of most toddlers by using my mouth for everything - except speaking full sentences. I do remember trying to learn the national language that I began studying twelve weeks ago. Within the first month I became frustrated by the few words I could recognize, read, write or spell, let alone speak with confidence in conversation.
Last week things changed. We got the chance to learn from a linguistic expert working with a well known Bible translation organization. She introduced us a new method that simulates the way we all successfully learned our first language. Full exposure to this method required us to start learning a completely foreign language from scratch. Fortunately we were able to use the village language primarily spoken by the children & families we work with.
We were challenged to become like little children again (Matt 18:3). This humility allowed us to fully engage our bodies as we touched objects and acted out the words we were learning. Monday and Tuesday we did everything except speak a sound of our new language. Wednesday we were allowed to say the words aloud for the first time. By Thursday we were able to accurately recall enough objects and actions to verbally tell a short bible parable. “Woman lost coin, light lamp, searched, found, happy, called friends, all happy!” Although we sounded like a toddler this had been achieved in days not years. Like a toddler we are in an attitude of humble learning and willing for others to correct and instruct us.
These methods will help us continue to learn the national language even though we have already become conversational about limited topics. Please pray that we will have the humility of a child to learn with abandon and the divine wisdom to know how best to learn both languages of our new neighbors.