I have been thinking a lot about our friends today. They just moved to Barcelona as missionaries.
I was terrible at learning a second language. I took two mandatory years of Spanish in high school and two required semesters in college but still didn't do well. I could pick up vocabulary but verbal sentence structure in another language just never clicked with me. Heck, sentence structure in my first language is rather difficult. I laugh though because another friend of mine pretty much taught herself Russian. Some people just have brains that learn language well. I am not one of them. I am praying for the Watkin family as they immerse themselves in a new culture and language. The adjustment could take awhile.
They say young children learn multiple languages best. It may delay their speech some but that is only because they are trying to organize more than one language in their brains. When they do start talking, both languages come out fluent. They don't have the previous baggage of translation that I had. They learned the languages simultaneously. It is all they have known.
Another way to learn language is to immerse yourself in a culture. Surrounding yourself with people who only (or mostly) speak the language you desire to learn forces you to figure it out. For me, it was hard to turn on my Spanish brain during that class (and when I studied). The rest of my life was in English. The languages never intertwined. They were kept separate therefore I didn't really learn Spanish (and later that semester of German in college).
Today I loaded up the kids after nap and took the drive to the commissary. I have come to enjoy that ride. Sometimes for the peace and quiet found in 40 minutes one way when I get to go by myself. But also for the times I have company and it forces us to have conversations and sing along to the radio. Bundle Boy often asks about the music we are listening to. He wants to know what hard words mean and how they relate to Jesus. I made an audible request for the next song which spurred conversation about what it will be like when Jesus comes back. "When I see him, I am going to hug and kiss him!" he said. "I don't see a ladder up to heaven. How will we get up there?" As I talked to my 3 1/2 year old son I was SO blessed. He is learning the language as a young child. All his questions are out of curiosity not cynicism. He doesn't have baggage of years living a life for himself and wondering what do I need God for. God is intertwined in his little life. He thanks Him, he loves Him, he praises Him, he wants to please Him. It is not like the rest of his life is in the world and God only gets talked about during church or when he reads a book about him. He is immersed in the culture and language of thanks.
In the quiet of my heart (because God knows it was anything but quiet with two shrieking gigglers in the back seat) and behind my own smile, I heard this voice saying...
Now do you see? I am working in you for THEM. So they can learn to thank Me in every circumstance of life. So they can grow up never knowing a day that I didn't love them. Give up more. There is even more to surrender to Me. ABIDE!
It got me thinking. How easy it is to separate my life into mine (English) and God's (Spanish). My life is mine and I will give you what is yours when it is convenient for me, Lord. You know, like during Spanish class. And I keep wondering why there are still corners of my heart that aren't "getting it" yet. I have to immerse myself. Completely. Every part of who I am and who I was created to be. I have to get rid of each piece of luggage at a time and intertwine every fiber of my being until I breath a language of thanks. This week my breath has been quite grumbly (note: still not a word).
The last couple weeks have been a little rough. I have felt like I was kept at the end of myself for long periods of time and even wondered if I had said a gentle word to my son in one entire day. The constant instruction and discipline he requires at the moment is exhausting. But it wasn't until I was driving home from the commissary today that I realized I have been busy barking out sentences in "Spanish" (be kind/gentle, listen and obey, wait your turn, ask permission...) at my son for days and then speaking in "English" (short tempered, harsh tone, impatient, annoyed...) the rest of the time. How on earth can I expect him to learn the language of thanks if I am not fluent myself??????
It isn't easy to learn a second language as an adult. But if it means my kids grow up being bilingual without so much as one unnecessary carry-on in the overhead bin that would get in their way of knowing and trusting God's love for them, then to God be the glory.
It is only by his grace that he offers us more than one way to learn.
I am ready Lord. Immerse me in your language of thanks. I want to deeply know it and speak it fluently and dream about it. I want to come to a point where I no longer even have to waste a moment in my head translating. I want it to BE my first language.
We are praying for you J & T Watkin. God is going to do big things in and through you.