On Learning Language

1 Jan 2015

When you’ve moved halfway around the world for one reason—to share the gospel with those who haven’t yet heard—you can understand why language learning is so important! To say it’s not an easy task would be an understatement.

Here are a few quotes from a number of Pioneers workers who are learning language in various locations around the world. Read on for some real insight into the joys and challenges!

South-east Asia

“I am currently going to university to learn language five days a week, and A is going three days a week (we go at different times so we can look after the children). It sounds simple, but it’s hard work. Sometimes we feel encouraged, other times it feels like we’re getting nowhere. But it will be worth it when we’re able to clearly communicate the amazing message of salvation through Jesus to those around us and encourage believers here to do the same. We are excited about that!”

Middle East

“’Pick up the cow & make it eat your tongue.’ Language classes are quite fun. Each morning we’re doing a method called GPA, which starts with five weeks of vocab being squirted at you like a pressure hose. The teacher gets us to reinforce the words we’ve heard by acting out things with toys. Next week we’ll start talking. I understood four words at the fellowship service last week and about 20 this week—woohoo!”


“Language learning often feels relentless. It is not uncommon to spend between two and four hours a night doing homework—and that’s after getting all the kids through theirs! We frequently feel tired and sometimes discouraged. Please pray that we would persevere and live in the knowledge that God’s grace is always sufficient. On a more cheerful note, we are actually learning! We also had the privilege of a retired phonetics’ specialist spending the a week with us and drilling us on our pronunciation—somewhat reminiscent of scenes from ‘My Fair Lady’!”

Central Asia

“With all of our interruptions to language learning, due to helpers frequently changing and other demands such as family responsibilities, we are currently thinking about extending our ‘one year’ of learning the local language. The other reason for this consideration is the high likelihood of us landing new workers and potential teammates, which requires a decent level of language.”

Southeast Asia

“Among other things we are trying our best to immerse ourselves in the language and culture here. K finds this a challenge being at home most days without transport (for now), but our house helper is a great language helper too! Sometimes she gets confused about what her job is—washing the dishes or sitting down with a cup of tea teaching K new words?! She has become a lovely friend to us, and our son loves her too.”

Middle East

“The funny thing about language learning is that it’s such an emotional experience. A few weeks ago I was feeling incredibly frustrated by a number of small interactions where I just didn’t understand people as well as I wanted to. Even though I know intellectually that I’ve come a very long way since I started, I was feeling pretty discouraged. And then last week my flatmate and I had a really good visit, where I understood much more than I expected. I came home feeling quite pleased, not just with the visit (though it was fun and I enjoyed meeting new people), but with life! It’s all about perspective… I’m continually reminded that if I was to rely on my own strength—for language or anything else—that I would be quickly tripped up by my own weakness. But I’m encouraged to know that the One who gives me strength is glorified in my weakness. And I’m extremely grateful for that!”

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