Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Why are You Still in Language School?

Why are you still in language school?

 While most people don't ask us this question directly, I am sure it is floating around out there in the ether. Or maybe the question is something like: "if you can speak German right now, why do you need to go any further in the language learning process?"

The short answer is: we aren't there yet. The goal of our language journey is not just survival, but the ability to share on deeper heart levels. We canspeak German, but we have a lot still to learn.

Recently, we had an experience that illustrated this point. On Sunday, we were invited to have lunch with some friends from church. It was a really great time to speak German and connect with some people our age outside of the Sunday morning setting. We had a great meal and spoke only German the whole time. We laughed, told stories and had a great community experience. 

Towards the end of the meal something fascinating happened. Some long time friends of the people we were eating with stopped by. They heard us speaking German and the conversation continued as one big group. But the whole pace shifted gears. The conversation picked up the pace a little bit more and vocabulary got a bit more complex. No one slowed down for us - as they spoke, they sped up! For the most part, we were able to keep up, but I could feel a shift. I needed to concentrate more to keep pace, and I missed words or phrases along the way.

Neither the pace of the conversation at the beginning, nor the change that happened were intentional. And it wasn't wrong or bad. In fact, it was a really great conversation to be a part of. We love to be challenged in our skills and the relationships we are forming here. But it is interesting to experience the shift from a conversation that isn't requiring as much mental energy, to one that requires more focus to follow along. 

For me, this was a reminder of two big things

First of all, we have come a long way. It is amazing to me that we are able to have these conversations so soon after arriving here. The language learning journey is different for everyone and there can and will be road blocks for us in the future. I am a very verbal person and as I am able to express myself more and more in this new language, there is a sense of satisfaction and enjoyment that comes along with it. 

Secondly, I know that we still have so much to learn. We long for the day when we are "there", and we can begin the ministry we came here to do. But we still have a long way to go. It will be awhile before conversations with a group of native speaker don't move too fast for us. It would also be false to say that ministry begins when we are fluent in the language. That statement implies that the time we are investing now isn't "ministry time." But it is. One thing that was reinforced through support raising was that this entire process is ministry. It is not an end goal situation, but a journey of evolving ministry responsibilities. As we walk through this phase, we are reminded that God will continue to provide for our needs and open doors every step of the way.