Five tips to keep up with language learning while off the field

Jun 10, 2020 | 0 comments

How many thousands of international ministry workers are finding themselves in their homelands due to the coronavirus? 

Maybe you are one of them. Are you worried about losing your progress in language learning? Here are some ideas you can use even in your homeland!

Ask God to direct you and provide opportunities to use the language

God used language to divide people at Babel and then to unite His church at Pentecost! He is vitally interested in working in you and through you to draw others into His Body, and communicating His love through life and words is all part of the process. When we came off the field to work in a U.S.-based office, I asked God to direct me to native language speakers with whom I could build relationship and keep advancing in the language I worked so hard to learn. He provided multiple opportunities, including discipleship with two ladies, one who was growing in her walk with the Lord, and another who came to know the Lord during our time together. 

We also have His promise that we have not because we ask not. Why not simply ask Him for new ways to learn the language?

Converse with Native Language Speakers

Many of the people I know who are “home”-based right now still stay in contact with friends and national co-workers in their host country. If this is possible, can you set up regular meetings that are intentionally designed to help you with the language?

If you are a new language learner, you can find children’s stories on the internet that both you and your helper can watch and discuss. You can find songs such as children’s songs or praise songs. 

BBC offers news in many languages. You can watch a news report and discuss it with your helper.  

How about finding a contemporary version of the Bible in your target language and learning some verses together? 

If your helper will allow you to do it, you can record the conversations or record patterned conversations that you wish to learn.

If you are in the U.S., have your checked out Meet Up groups in your area? I looked up the Mandarin group that meets in my city and found that they are still meeting through Zoom. Here is a screen shot of just a few Meet Up groups available in Portland, OR.

Internet Study

There are several language learning sites on the internet where you can take lessons from native language speakers and teachers. I haven’t yet tried all of these out and most have a fee. Here are some sites you can look at:

Español Automatico

Study on Your Own

Sometimes it is not possible to meet with a native language speaker, so what can you do to keep up in the language? You can still listen to stories and songs, watch the news, and read/listen to a contemporary version of the Bible. 

As you advance, you can look for poetry and short stories by famous authors. You can watch the Jesus film and other movies from the country (if they have been translated).

To keep up on pronunciation, I find artists who compose and sing their songs in Spanish. I listen to them and sing along with them, making myself sound as close to them as possible. I also speak along with recorded Bible verses and recorded material close to my language level.


I hope these ideas are useful to you. I’m picturing you joining with those thousands of workers returning to your fields of service. Imagine the impact if you return having grown in your language-learning ability. What an encouragement to the people you work with, that you took this time to deliberately build your language skills.

What else would you add to this list?

Have you ever been unsure what to do when locals tell you things they feel safe telling you because you are an outsider? Or felt in over your head when expats come to you for unofficial counseling? This month’s workshop Counseling 101 for Lay People is for you.

Photo by Soner Eker on Unsplash

Karen Hedinger

Lover of languages. Director of CultureBound’s LanguageCourse. Wife. Learner.




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