I’m convinced that as newcomers [enter] a culture with the kind of orientation that puts a focus on relationships, [they] can get deeply involved in very, very meaningful relationships, and they not only can, but must do it from the very first day, right from the outset. If they don’t, then they’re just going to be tourists. (Tom Brewster, co-author of LAMP )
What makes a successful language learner? Aptitude plays a part. But attitude plays a bigger part. Are we not thankful that we have the resources to be able to learn our neighbor’s language? Do we not deeply desire to reach a level of fluency so that we can share the gospel? Fellow language learners in Christ, we get to do this! I caution us against an entitlement attitude that expects and therefore only reaches minimum standards.
This is a tragic perspective. Our minimum standard should be our baseline for really taking off in our learning and ministry.
By God’s grace we get to learn to share our faith in another language and reach out to our lost neighbors!
If we have a habit of regularly sharing our faith now, we will continue to do so as a part of our language learning practice. And this passion, this practice, will drive us – not to learn the language, but to proclaim the gospel to our lost neighbors in their language. And we will be thankful for every class we attend – every word we learn and use – that puts us on this path toward fluency. I truly believe this grateful attitude – this thankfulness – is the best litmus test for determining our long-term language learning capacity and success.
Our purpose is to tell the good news, and that purpose is what compels us to learn the language so we can tell it. If we are walking in our calling, regularly telling the good news to those around us, our language learning becomes a part of that joyful process of gospel proclamation.
We start with what we know, mistakes and all. Our weakness is God’s strength, and as we take the next faithful step, we know that the gospel is true and sustains our testimony by the power of his word and Spirit.
Language learning is no easy task. Nor does it lend itself to quick results. It requires endurance, patience, humility, discipline, faith, and wisdom. The task of language learning has the capacity to strip us of our confidence, purpose, and desire. It is easy to lose sight of the goal.
“Run in such a way as to win the prize” (1 Corinthians 9:24).
Have you ever done something that is so difficult – though you love it and have a passion for it, it is just so hard to do? Proclaiming the gospel in another language is hard. It’s insanely hard. I’ve heard getting to the gospel in a conversation described as “seven seconds of insanity.” Ratchet that up a few notches when trying to do it in another language.
We endure the challenges of language learning set-backs when we don’t “feel” the progress. But with every gospel story we tell, and every passage we explain, we find joy in inviting people to follow Christ.
Let’s not confuse our goal. Our goal is not competence in language learning. Our goal is fluently proclaiming the gospel. What do I mean by this? One language learner recently told me that her entire first four-year term was being overshadowed by a proficiency level she was told to reach. I responded with this word of encouragement:
Please do not let language proficiency goals distract us from our overall goal – the ability to proclaim and teach the gospel in our new language. Everything we do in language learning is to become fluent in our interpersonal communication of the gospel. Our first goal, therefore, is to get to the point where we can begin to do this. This means more than working through a single prepared presentation. It means working through multiple simple gospel passages. We must learn to tell them and explain them simply, and dialogue about them informally. We must be able to talk about how the gospel impacts our lives, in simple words of testimony. This is gospel fluency, and rest assured that this gospel fluency goal most certainly correlates with proficiency levels we are trying to reach.
What makes a successful language learner?
- Attitude of thankfulness
- Moving beyond minimum expectations
- Habit of regularly sharing the gospel
- Loving people and being involved in their lives
- Conversing the gospel people through all walks of life