I'm pursuing my goal of becoming fluent in Spanish more urgently now as a group from our church is headed back to Cuba on another mission-study trip the end of October before our religious license from the U.S. government expires. I just spent an hour speaking splintered Spanish with another member of our group at the local Starbucks. We both studied Spanish in college, but neither of us has had much experience in actual conversation. We're trying to remedy that by practice and laughed together as we struggled to find the words, conjugate verbs and rapidly use our dictionaries. I have learned much from watching Spanish language television, both the news and the telenovelas (like English soap operas the acting is exaggerated so that learning words comes easier), and from reading the Bible in Spanish. I learned on a trip to the Presbyterian Border Ministry at Nuevo Laredo a few years ago as well as on the previous trip to Cuba what a blessing it is to be able to listen to Christian sisters and brothers speak of their faith in their own language.
My husband and I are also working on learning some Mandarin Chinese, which is more of a challenge to our English-speaking ears. I have come to like this language, however, for its elegant simplicity and also for the fact that it's not necessary to conjugate verbs! I hope one day to travel to Taiwan when our daughter-in-law's mother returns to visit her family there. She has invited us to join her. I recently asked Cokesbury to look for a Chinese-English Bible. I've discovered that reading something you know something about already in another language gives you a bit of a head start. And I want to learn to pray in yet another language.
In our shrinking world, learning others' languages is a way to build community. In our family, both Spanish and Chinese are part of our grandchildren's heritage, so it is important for us to learn out of respect for the members of our wonderfully rich extended family. I also hope that language study will continue to challenge my aging brain and help keep it functioning. May you too find a way to speak in tongues about your faith.
Grace and Peace,