Monday, March 14, 2016

His Words, Not Mine

We are quickly coming up on our 5th anniversary of living in Costa Rica.  I am not really sure how that happened.  I am pretty sure that it was just last year we were in Language School, stumbling through learning how to live in a new place.  But apparently it really was 5 years ago we packed everything into duffel bags in the belly of a plane and moved here.

I think 5 years ago, I had some pretty naive ideas about language learning.  I know I thought that 5 years in I would be more proficient than I am.  I still struggle to communicate at a heart level with nationals.  Ok, let's be honest, sometimes I struggle to communicate on an informational level.  I am pretty sure that this baby I am carrying right now is sucking all the Spanish out of me through the placenta.  That's a thing, right?

In all seriousness, I am still a foreigner, still  trying to pick up the broad strokes of the language at times.  Anybody else there with me?  I can get really discouraged by that fact.  I am not where I want to be language wise.  It's not for trying.  We've done a year of language school, a couple of years of private tutoring and living away from other expats.  It's just hard and probably will always be a challenge for me for a lot of reasons.  I joke with my tutor that my problem is my mom never spoke to me in Spanish.   Seriously though, I don't have the gift like my husband does.  I also don't have as much interaction in Spanish like he does since I'm home with kids.  I have some learning struggles that make language learning that much harder.  I most likely will always speak with an accent.

God reminded me the other day though that it isn't about me. It's about Him.  Huh.  You would think I might have gotten that lesson by now, but apparently not quite yet.

No, this is about Him.  Like Paul said to the Corinthians

When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.  For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling.  My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words (yeah, maybe more like the vocab of a 4 year old!), but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power,  so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.  1 Corinthians 2:1-5

God chose, in His infinite wisdom to have me born to North American, English speaking parents.  That was His plan.  If He had wanted my primary language to be Spanish, He would have done it.  He wants to work through me in my weakness to demonstrate the Spirit's power.

So for as frustrating as that is, it's comforting.  It means that any good that comes of a conversation with someone, it's because of God, which actually is a pretty great place to be!

How about you? Do you feel discouraged by your language proficiency?  How do you keep sharp in your second or third language?  


  1. Thank you for this! We serve in Mexico and I struggle with Spanish and now the indigenous language we are learning. My husband is also a more natural language learner. This was a good reminder that He is strong in our weakness.

  2. I was actually, after 15 years in the language, starting to feel fairly comfortable with French (Zarma... well, whole other story). Then... transition to Quebec... where we first learned French and which now sounded totally foreign. The accent, the word differences, all of the frenchified english words thrown in in the most unsuspecting places... We've been here 9 months and some folks I still struggle to understand even after listening to them for several minutes.

    To keep sharp (???) - I make myself use it. I choose to watch TV shows in French instead of English, I make myself talk to people, I'm going through training to volunteer with an aid and action center, we have people over to our home, I read my Bible and study it in French sometimes.

  3. Thank you for sharing. It encouraged me that I was not alone. I have really struggled with the language here even though I have really tried to make it a priority. I am nearing the end of the language program that I am in, although I will still keep going twice a week. I have really tried to weave opportunities to practice into my everyday life. I try to strike up a conversation with people when I am out and attempt to do most business in the local language. I don't always succeed but I really try. I try to watch tv in the language. We also have two sisters who live with us and help with the house and watch the children. It has been a blessing for me and the children to have people to practice with. Reading and writing have really helped me learn vocabulary and improve my grammar. However I too struggle with some learning difficulties that make the progress slow. I often struggle with my slow process and constantly making mistakes and feeling foolish. Sometimes I have some really meaningful conversations and sometimes I forget the simplest things. But the reminders you wrote about are helpful. Moving to the mission field has taught me so much about who God is.