Learning a new language for a missionary trip isn’t usually near the top of our to-do lists. While it may seem like a distraction from other tasks, language learning is a simple way to show people that you care about them. Even if you don’t know where to begin or it seems like an impossible task, consider taking time to learn the language.
If you are going on a short-term trip, it’s not necessary to be fluent in another language. For these trips, we only need to know the basics to hold a conversation and explain the gospel in our testimonies.
If you’re going for a long period of time, it is important to invest time into learning the new language. At the Radical Training Center, students learn the local language in the classroom and through cultural immersion. This valuable experience teaches aspiring missionaries that language learning is an important aspect of missionary preparation.
Of course, while being able to have fluent conversations and share the gospel in another language is the end goal, we glorify God in the learning process (Colossians 3:23).
When we use our intelligence to learn heartily and diligently, we’re glorifying God.
When we use our intelligence to learn heartily and diligently, we’re glorifying God. Even if we don’t become fluent in a short time span, we’re glorifying him because we have the right mindset. We’re not learning to boost our ego, but so that others can learn about Jesus and what he did on the cross for us. We’re taking the time to learn a language so that we are ready to defend the hope that we have within us (1 Peter 3:15).
If you want to learn a language for missions, consider taking a class, using a self-taught learning software, or immersing yourself in the culture.
Learn by Taking an Online or In-Person Course
If you have more time before your trip, you can look for language academies on the embassy’s website. Not only will you learn how to pronounce words, but also you’ll have someone correcting and guiding you.
This is how I found courses for French, Italian, and German in Panama. Specifically, these courses have helped me to understand grammar better because the instructors took the time to explain the material and answer my questions.
Find an App for Self-Taught learning
If you don’t have that much time or you like to learn by yourself, you can buy a self-taught guidebook to learn grammar and vocabulary. Consider downloading a language-learning app and a dictionary, as well.
In my experience, the best way to approach self-taught learning is to combine a guidebook with at least two different apps. This way you ensure that you’re understanding what you’re learning from the book and you’re practicing at the same time.
When choosing an app, I’ve found it helpful to look up one that’s an initiative from a TV channel. These apps usually teach grammar more thoroughly, and you’ll get to listen to how people actually speak at different spoken levels.
For example, TV5MONDE: learn French and DW Learn German are great, free resources where you can learn French and German respectively. They offer courses for beginners (A1) to proficient speakers (C1-C2).
Immerse Yourself in the Culture
In order to benefit from cultural immersion, you’d need to have a certain basic knowledge of the language that you want to improve and learn upon. Cultural immersion consists of learning about the peculiarities of the country you’re going to visit so you’re aware of the political, social, and spiritual environment. You’d want to learn some colloquial phrases, listen to music and podcasts, watch TV series, movies, and news, and read books or magazines from that country.
Coming from a non-English speaking country, I can assert that it’s hard to practice and perfect the language when there is no one to practice with and when the only thing taught in school is the verb “to be.” Now, we’re living in the digital age so cultural immersion is possible. This is how I continue to learn English. Even though I’ve reached a proficient level, there are more things to learn, and with this method, I can always keep up with linguistic trends that meet the ongoing needs.
As I’ve learned languages, I’ve found that combining these three techniques is the best way to learn efficiently and effectively. Obviously, you’d need to assess your situation to decide which way is the best for you. Of course, there are other ways to learn a language, but these three have worked well for me as I’ve learned several new languages.