Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A New Attitude

Photo credit: grietgriet from

Last Friday, we completed two weeks of PILAT training at MTI, which stands for "Program In Language Acquisition Techniques". The training was not specific to the language we will learn (German), but instead, focused on preparing us and equipping us to learn another language. The training was absolutely invaluable. We learned about phonetics and linguistics, practiced language learning activities, and discussed the process of language learning, including how to best reach fluency.

One of my biggest takeaways was my attitude change. Going into language learning up to this point, I was nervous. Although I was a good student in school, learning a language to actually use and communicate is totally different from language learning in high school! And fear of the unknown was getting the best of me. I was also going into the adventure with a "grin and bear it" attitude. If I hunker down and study a lot, like I did in school, I can get through...right?

But PILAT completely reframed my attitude. I now have an entire workbook of activities I can do in the community and with a language helper that will help me to actually use and speak the language, not just read and write. I now have confidence in a method that has stood the test of time. I have practical steps to take, which reduce my fear and uncertainty.

One of the lessons from PILAT that really stuck with me were their "5 premises":
  1. Language is a natural himan capability.
  2. Language is a person, creative production.
  3. Language is a social, interactive activity.
  4. Language is a cultural, historical expression.
  5. Language is a structured, governed system.
These premises really get at the core of language and, surprisingly, brought me comfort. They reinforce that my brain has been made to learn a language! God created us to communicate and our brain is capable of so much in terms of language use. I'm excited to discover that!

When I learn German, I may learn differently than anyone else because language is personal and creative. There is nothing wrong with that. Everyone speaks their own language a little differently; this is another place where my personality can come out.

In the end, language will help us discover and understand Austrian culture in a deeper way. It all comes back to our motivation - why are we on this journey? To communicate the gospel. We are not learning German to buy bread at the store or to read the Austrian newspapers...we are learning to interact with Austrians and communicate God's love. When we continually go back to the importance of communication in ministry, we are motivated to continue in language learning.

Which language learning premise resonates with you and why?

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