Spiritual lessons through Language learning.

So for the past few weeks I have had the privilege of beginning a Swahili language program with a couple other lovely friends here in Dar.  We are part of a language method called the ‘Growing Participator Approach’.  It is quite a fun and interactive way to learn language in my humble opinion.

The concept behind this method is that I, along with other language learners in the group, are seeking to not only acquire grammar and conversation skills but we want to enter into our ‘Nurtures’ (our teacher’s) world.  The idea is that we want to participate as much as possible in their culture and understand their ways.  This will help us in understanding the meaning behind their language etc.  For th

e first 100 hours of this program we, the participators, are not to talk at all.  Only listen to our Nurturer and follow their instructions.  The idea being that we are retaining in our minds all the vocabulary that we are continually being exposed to and it is going into our ‘Iceberg’.  With time the vocabulary we’ve learned which is quite a lot will indeed emerge at the top of the iceberg where in fact it will be revealed and we will actually be able to use it in everyday talk.  We are learning through repetition of words, pictures, tangible items that we interact with as we are instructed to do.  And it can be quite fun!

Our Nurturers name is Lucy.

Lucy is a gem.  Yup. Pretty much.

She so reflects the grace and love and joy of Jesus as she teaches us about her Swahili world.

Language learning has revealed a few things about myselfI and can be used to draw parallels in my Christian faith journey as well.

1).  Do I believe and have faith that what’s in my ‘iceberg’ is in fact there and will surface and be utilized at just the right time….when I’m ready.

This method of learning a language suggests that we all learn at a different pace and that when we are ready we will suddenly be able to use all that we have been absorbing and retaining during our teaching times.

That’s challenging because sometimes I want to rush the process and get the results  NOW.  And I’m tempted to discouragement or to give up.

Kind of like trusting God’s timing for things.  The callings and desires He’s put in my heart.  They will manifest themselves at just the right time because He is Sovereign.  In the mean time will I be faithful and diligent to the work right in front of me that feels tedious and not as rewarding today?

2).  I don’t like making mistakes and I’m too hard on myself when I do make them.

There are many times in my class where we are asked to point out the items Lucy has just been reviewing with us and I realized how quickly my progress would shut down mentally and emotionally if I felt I was making too many incorrect responses or I perceived I was falling behind the other learners.

Many times Lucy would stop and say, ‘Don’t worry.  Pole, pole! (slowly, slowly).’  And she would clap and laugh when we got a correct answer.  Just like a mother to a child when they are learning to comprehend first words.  Do we not have nothing but grace for our precious little ones learning how to crawl, walk and talk and run?!  Do they not learn just as much or more from their mistakes and trying again and again?

I am learning that I need to receive deeply the depths of my Father’s grace for me and my mistakes and that He is not upset when I fall or get tripped up.

3).  There can be joy and much fun in the baby steps of learning and learning to laugh at myself is a gift….and encouragement for the journey from friends is a blessing.

Lucy has shared with us several times that she wants us to have fun!  She knows that it’s not easy for us to learn Kiswahili and she has expressed her gratitude in our desire to understand her language and her culture.  She keeps encouraging us and telling us to have fun.

Often I am so focused on the end product of my sanctification for Jesus and I forget that there is JOY FOR THE JOURNEY!  Yes, it can be painful work at times….the flesh dies hard, this I know!  But I think I forget that my Savior, my Friend is there cheering me on and wants me to succeed.  And he is not upset or surprised by my small ‘progress’.  He is there to encourage me to keep going.  And if God’s not surprised or upset by my weakness….then why am I wasting so much time being upset about it?!

In fact….my weakness’ will be the means by which HE will glorify Himself.



Tired baby during language learning.

Tired baby during language learning.