Most Americans would agree they are pretty tough to master. Being oceans away from the natives who speak most of the languages we want to learn make the best way -submersion- a bit difficult. Many people, myself included, use this as an excuse to not even begin trying.
I have often thought of how easy it will be to pick up Japanese once we live in Japan. But as more time passes before we actually make the move, I feel a sense of urgency to use this time to learn the language. I don’t want to get over there and resign the first couple of years to language studies. We can’t be certain of how much time we will be given in-country, so why would I want to waste a moment trying to learn the language when I could be studying it here and now?
To my surprise when we were over there this past spring I discovered how hard it was to just “pick up.” Spanish is a lot easier for me to “pick up” because I’ve spent years in study of the language and culture. The last formal course I took in Spanish my professor said I was nearly fluent. Anytime I went to Guatemala or Spain I easily fell right back into my Spanish. I think my studies of it in America made “submersion” easier; all the parts that didn’t make sense clicked once I got there- but I don’t think they would have clicked had I not spent the time State-side.
But in Japan it didn’t become easier… because I knew absolutely nothing. I was dismayed at the thought- we’ve had this call on our lives for 4 1/2 years and I still knew absolutely nothing. Well, I could say “hello”, “excuse me” and “thank you”. That’s still all I can say, and “Domo Arigato Mister Robato”….
Another layer to my longing for fluency- Missionaries not only need to get by in the society but we need to be able to convey life-changing deeply moving Truths that can change a persons life. While translators are available, the impact of sharing the gospel with someone in their own native tongue is astounding and irreplaceable. So would you come with me on my journey to fluency? I’ll share tips and tricks that I learn along the way and you all can be my accountability!
Here’s the plan: I’m going to attempt to learn Japanese with fluency as my goal. I’m going to try and see what works and what doesn’t. (I already know quite a bit of what doesn’t.)
This will hopefully be helpful to other missionaries who are aiming for fluency or anyone who does not have access or funding to take classes conventionally. The advice and lessons will be easy to fit into an active schedule. Many people are called into missions as singles, that makes it quite a bit easier to devote large blocks of time to language studies. What I’m attempting is meant to be added into everyday ministry in a country that is not of the language you are attempting to learn. I.E.- yes we’ve been given time in America to learn the language, but I don’t think the study of it should be so encompassing that we are completely useless where God has us here and now. So balanced dedication is what I’m aiming for. Which is hard for me. I like to go all in, but I have a family of four to take care of and I can’t compromise my job as a Wife & Mama.
Who’s in? Anyone want to learn Japanese with me? I hear it’s helpful in the business world! Or want to apply these principals/methods to learning another language? Think of all the doors that can be opened, lives that could be changed, and friendships yet to be made!
Let me know so we can keep each other accountable on this journey! -K