When one thinks about the basics of language learning, probably the things that come to mind are topics like vocabulary, grammar, flashcards, or recordings. These are all parts of the basics of the process of language learning.
For global Kingdom workers, though, there is something much more basic. I am referring to the why of language learning. You see, we can make our goal in language learning to be able to speak in the tongues of men and angels. (Wouldn’t it be great if we could speak as clearly as the disciples did on the day of Pentecost with the same amount of effort that they put into it?) Yet, if we do not have love … well … we are like a noisy gong or clanging cymbal. We’re just filling the air with our great eloquence and all the time sounding like the honking, beeping toy that my two-year-old grandchild is playing with while I write this blog.
Jesus told a Pharisee that the greatest commandment was, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets,” (Matthew 22:37-40). This is not a love that we eek up as we struggle to communicate to people so different from us. This is a love from God, Himself (1 John 4:7).
It is our love from and for God, in relationship with Him, that has propelled us to be ambassadors of reconciliation to the people He has sent us to (2 Cor. 5:18-20). We learn language so we can build relationships with people, communicating about life and God’s love in understandable concepts and words at the level of the heart. This should be the basis of language learning.
So, what does that look like in language learning? That means we are willing to work hard at learning vocabulary, patterned conversations, grammar, simple statements, and complex ideas. We are willing to sound like a toddler for a time. We put forth the effort to work to understand people’s view of their history, the values they teach their children, how their social networks are organized, and we adapt and adjust to their way of living. We learn how they express love for each other—it might look different from what you’re used to.
And with God in you and with you, you build relationships with people. In the language learning process, you have a natural way and reason to form relationships with people. You can build your own Language Learning Community (LLC). You can read how we at CultureBound define and implement the idea of a LLC here.
Let me quote the last paragraph of the hyperlinked post here. “Most important, ask the Lord of the harvest to fill your Language Learning Community 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.”
Now that is back to basics. We can love others as Christ has loved us (John 13:34-35). We can walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time and let our speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that we may know how we ought to answer each person (Colossians 4:5-6). As we advance in the language, by God’s grace we can speak in the [new] tongue of the people we are living with and have love (1 Corinthians 13:1). Finally, we can always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks us to give a reason for the hope that we have, doing this with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15).
May we never move past these basics!
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