“Lo hago ahorita.” “I’ll do it right away.” At least, I thought that is what I was communicating. That’s what it meant in Mexico. My Cuban friend, though, took offense. She wanted me to do it now, but I had just said I would do it later. That day I learned from her that ahorita has a different meaning between Mexico and Cuba. This friend is part of my language learning community.
The term “language learning community” is not new. If you google it, you will find many websites and articles that refer to language learning communities, mostly situated in classrooms and/or online.
In this post and in our training, we define a language learning community (LLC) as a group of people in our target language who are willing to help us with language learning. These people can include professionals such as teachers and tutors or someone we might hire as a language helper or conversation partner. Another member can be the person at the market who sees us struggle to ask for something we want to buy and gives us the words/phrases/questions to use. Another can be our neighbor who is willing to converse with us even though, at the beginning, it takes work for both of us to get the gist of what each other is saying.
At more advanced levels, LLC members are the people who are willing to help us with the nuances of the language or inform us about the regional meanings and connotations of the words we are using. For example, once when preaching in Mexico, my husband used the word for individual thinking he was referring to a person. After the service, a woman informed him that individuois only used for infamous people like those on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted list.
Many language acquisition approaches focus on the language learner practicing what they are learning in the community. I am proposing, though, that we intentionally form an LLC, partially for the sake of learning language, but also for building relationships with people in that community. You see, most of us are learning a new language because we want to share God’s love. His invitation is to enter into relationship or to grow in relationship with Him. We share that invitation best by living life-on-life with people, understanding what is important to them, and learning how to live in their neighborhoods.
Developing an LLC gives us the opportunity to intentionally interact with specific people, divinely guided by the Holy Spirit. He is the one who has commissioned us to love others as He has loved us, to love our neighbor, to learn to communicate in a different language/culture so we can be ambassadors of reconciliation. He is also the one who will direct us to members of the LLC and superintend each relationship. He does something else that we cannot do. As we live and communicate His love, He works in hearts and lives—both ours and our LLC members!
We might have a few or many in our LLC. The people in our community might know each other or might not. They might not even realize that you consider them part of your language learning community. Not all relationships will be deep; the kind of relationship will be determined by each circumstance and setting.
As you learn new language and usage from an LLC member, write it down, write the source, use it with others and see how well it communicates with other LLC members to see if it appropriate with different people in various situations. Have a place where you keep notes on what you are learning, a place where you can access those notes when you need them.
Most important, ask the Lord of the harvest to fill your LLC with the people that He wants you to interact with regularly. Some will allow you to enter into life with them. Through genuine relationship with them, you will have the opportunity to be Jesus’ witness in life and words.
P.S. Almost ready to share the Sabbatical Journey Course! Finishing touches Karen Huber, the graphic artist, and they we will let you know all the details!
Karen Hedinger, Mark Hedinger, and Lauren Wells, LanguageCourse (Portland, OR: CultureBound, 2020), 6.