Issue 3 Stories


Reflections on language Learning

Who knew silence could say so much?

Most of the local people I met during my time in Botswana spoke English. However, when having a “heart-to-heart” conversation usually the person would switch to Setswana because they couldn’t express how they felt in English.

This is the reason why language learning is so important to me. Yes, you may be going to a country and just use English to hold a conversation. But will you be able to understand each other deeply?

The most difficult part of not knowing the local language is the lack of social interaction. In English, visiting a new church and making new friends is very easy for me. Being a social person I’d probably go as far as saying I need social interaction. Now I go to a French church and I am very quiet. Not because I want to be, but because I struggle to get the words out to have a conversation. It’s very frustrating to be able to understand a question someone has asked, but not be able to form the sentence to respond to them. It makes it nearly impossible for people to know “the real Graham”. I’m looking forward to being able to show people who I really am as my French improves. I’ve been encouraged at my progress though. I’m not where I want to be yet, but I’m also not where I was when I started. That’s encouraging.

However, in an unexpected way, I think the Lord has shown me the importance of silence. I can be a very loud and outgoing person. As I’m not that person in French at the moment, I’ve been forced to be quiet and to listen. It’s been a tough exercise for me, but a good one as I think that I’ve become a better listener which will help me in my future ministry. Psalm 46 resonates with my time of language learning in Quebec, especially verse 10, “Be still and know that I am God”. I’ve been surprised at what the Lord has taught me when I’ve just been still.

Who knew silence could say so much?

Despite the difficulties, I know that my language learning is worth the time and effort. To speak to someone about the gospel is to speak to their heart. We need to be able to speak in a person’s heart language to be understood and to understand them.

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Fire on the Mountain