The Challenges of Learning a Language
As many of you know, my wife and I are currently in the process of learning a language before going to Ecuador as missionaries. It has been one of the greatest experiences of my life but also one of the hardest. We have been in this process for about nine months now. I want to share with you a few things I have learned and also some areas where I think I have fallen short.
Learning a language is an attitude. I think attitude determines, to a large degree, how well you learn a language. I have to push and remind myself every day to have the right attitude. I often fail, but I have seen that when I do have the right attitude and I am asking questions in the language about the language or culture, then I learn much more. On the days that I am looking for opportunities to learn and practice new words, then I tend to improve in my Spanish. When I am just trying to get through the day without making too many mistakes, I am not improving but merely maintaining.
Learning a language is social. What I mean by that is that I am never going to learn Spanish just by reading or taking lessons. I am going to learn it by talking and interacting with people. Sorry, but Rosetta Stone is just not enough. I am not a super outgoing person, so this something that I am continually working on. It is like most things in life. Practice makes perfect, and I cannot just read or study a language. I must use it.
I have to be teachable. I must always be asking people to help me improve and correct my language. If not, then I will make the same mistakes over and over again. People are friendly, so they don’t want to cut me off in the middle of my sentence, but if they don’t do that, then I will never learn, so I have to ask them for their help and correction. Some people will never do it, but some will, so I have to continue to ask for correction and say thank you when they correct me. Sometimes I have slacked off on this, but I know that this is one of the essential keys to learning Spanish, so I must remember to do it every day.
Having a mentor is huge. Thankfully, I have a missionary by the name of David Gardner, who is helping through this process. He speaks Spanish and English perfectly and can help me with problems that I have and also pick up on the mistakes that I am making and show me how to correct them. He tells me what I am doing wrong and also challenges me to attempt new things in Spanish. I am super grateful for him and his help to me.
I will never be finished learning Spanish. I have realized that after two years of language learning, I will still have more to learn. It is not like a construction project where there are a starting point and a completion date. It is a life long process. I might be able to speak well after two years, but there is so much more to learn, and I must always be looking for ways to improve. I recently began reading a novel in Spanish. I realized that although I can understand the majority of daily conversations with my friends, I was lost reading the book because of the different words that they used and the style of writing
I have greatly enjoyed this language learning process so far, but there is so much more I need to learn, and I cannot be content with my current speaking level. I know that I have made a lot of mistakes and will probably make a lot more in this language learning process. Still, I am thankful for this opportunity to take this next step in getting to Ecuador, and I am having the greatest time of my life doing it.