Will I Ever Learn This Language?

I have feared that I will NEVER learn this language. 6 months into my language studies, I can carry on simple conversations, order at shops and restaurants, and ask questions to help me find my way along. I am no longer rehearsing every little phrase in my head before saying it and becoming more comfortable every day. But the more I learn, the more I realize I don’t know, and surprisingly, the more discouraged I can become. It is hard to see the progress from day to day, but as I look back further, I can see how far I have truly progressed with the Lord’s help.

But I still fear that I will never grasp this language in a way that is conducive to gospel conversations. The first time I attempted to witness to my neighbor in Nepali, she asked me if we worship 3 gods (God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit). I have a hard enough time explaining the doctrine of the Trinity in my native language, let alone a language I am just beginning to grasp the basics of!

It is hard to wrap my mind around the idea being able to answer questions like this in a culture that has no concept of Christianity and of the one true, living God in my second language. I must continue to keep “plugging away.” Even when I feel like I’m at a standstill, I know the wheels are turning somewhere undetectable. When I feel my brain is fried, God is greater than my frailty and will plant roots of knowledge despite my scattered state. It is only my responsibility to put the time and the work in, to push back the thoughts that are sent by the enemy to thwart my study and future ministry. I can’t make it all sink in. I must only trust that the Lord will enable me to soak up the countless hours of study, to give me opportunities to rest when I need it, and most importantly, to give me chances to share the gospel in this new and strange tongue.

I’ve always believed that the Holy Spirit could speak through me. Why would I think that He would be limited by the Nepali language? Surely the author of all tribes and tongues can help me hurdle the ever daunting language barrier to accomplish His ultimate plan for gospel growth in this needy land.

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Have you overcome a seemingly insurmountable challenge for the sake of the gospel?
I would love to hear your experiences in the comment section below!

5 Comments

  1. Hey Ambertaube,

    Thanks for taking the time to write your post. I get it. I can empathize. I’ve been living in Thailand for 14 years and can somewhat speak in Thai and in Thai Lue. What you are doing is hard work. You are at the toughest part of language learning. Your first year at it is the worst. Everything is new and you don’t have any frames to hang this new tongue on to.

    I wanted to share a quote that encourages my heart from time to time:

    “Messengers bearing the blessing are therefore sent to all peoples, but are confronted by language barriers, which serve to humble them, and cause them to serve from a position of social weakness, so the people’s faith will not rest upon the messenger’s abilities, but in God’s power.”

    Greg Thompson

    Greg loves the Lord and worked in Vietnam for several years. I runs a linguistic school in Colorado Springs.

    I hope you continue to take the time to learn Nepali. Don’t just learn the language, but learn the culture well. That will take more effort than learning the language. Finding out how people tick, what their core network of beliefs are, that will take the most work. But the rewards are worth it. Getting to know people, deepening relationships, and earning the right to share about things that matter.

    Yes, I’m passionate about learning languages and working cross-culturally. My family and I are in a Thai Lue village and are making bible lessons in Lue right now. We hope to begin teaching in February of 2016. These are exciting times!

    Rob Orwiler

    • Thank you for taking the time to write and encourage me. Learning the culture is daunting as well. Right now there is a big holiday here and it has been very eye opening for us. Thank you for sharing that quote. I plan to write a post about the necessary attribute of humility and may have to use that with your permission. Praying for much fruit in your ministry in Thailand. Certainly these are exciting times. Praise God we get to serve Him. God bless

      • Yes, of course, you can use that Greg Thomson quote. Humility and dependence on others are necessary qualities to learn language well. What a great idea to write about that.

        Take one bite of the culture elephant at a time. Always write down questions you have, especially since it is fresh and new right now. Go observe that big holiday, take pictures (if that is okay to do), and write down any and all questions you might have. Put your questions in a doc or file where you can retrieve them easily. I use Evernote for filing any and all my random thoughts. If I were to learn another language, I would use Evernote for questions to self, photos, language review, kinship charting, cultural theme docs, etc. I can’t say enough about Evernote.

        Yes, I’ll be praying for you too as you learn Nepali. Enjoy Christ presence today!

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