At some point in their lives, most people make attempts to learn a new language. Unfortunately, many of these people either quit or end up only learning certain words and very small phrases. Becoming fluent in a second language can be hard work; however, all of that hard work might bring about more benefits that some people think.
Yes, being able to arrive in a foreign land and speak the language can come in handy. When a person can speak the local language they tend to have a much better experience. Aside from knowing what to order off of a menu, learning a language can transform an entire travel experience. You’ll be able to communicate with the local people like you would with anyone else back in your hometown. In fact, many locals appreciate foreigners who go out of their way to learn the language.
Being able to communicate with foreigners will help a person envision parts of the world much differently. Research has proven that those who are multilingual possess “two minds.” Multilinguists have the ability to experience and observe actions in more than one way. A multi-linguist’s mind is forced to interpret actions differently.
Research has also shown that those who are multilingual tend to be more open-minded than those who only speak a single language. Why? Again, these individuals are forced to gain a new perspective on the world. These individuals gradually become more understanding of different cultures the more they’re immersed into them. Surrounding one’s self with a new environment, and a new way of life, will change that person’s opinions of how differently people operate around the world.
It’s never too late or early to begin learning a new language. These days, many children are brought up in homes where more than one language is spoken. These children have a tendency to be smarter and do better in school. Even if you’re an adult you can begin learning a completely different language today. There are sites and forums online that can help anyone get started. One great website is called Little Language Site at http://www.littlelanguagesite.com. Again, becoming multilingual as an adult can be hard work. However, if a person works hard and stays focused, they’ll enjoy the benefits after becoming fluent.
The internet has provided people with ways to learn even the most remote and unknown languages. Besides computer software like the popular Rosetta Stone and Rocket Language programs, there are also websites that allow you to have an online subscription in exchange for learning materials and access to a community that is also learning the same language as you.
LiveMocha is one of the most popular, and they also have the most extensive library of languages to learn. Best of all? It’s free.
The Livemocha community is made up of language enthusiasts: teachers, language experts, other language learners, and native speakers proud of their language and heritage. Community members help each other learn in a myriad of ways: they leave comments in response to practice exercises, build mini-lessons within exercise feedback, have practice conversations via text, video or audio chat, provide language practice and culture tips, and give much-needed encouragement.
(From the LiveMocha Website).
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There is an obvious importance for people to know the language of the locations that they are providing missions to. The more you can learn the local language, the better off you will be. Spanish is one of the more prevalent languages out there in terms of popular languages for missionaries. If you want to learn Spanish then you can give one of these programs a try: Rocket Spanish, Tell Me More, and the ever-popular Rosetta Stone.
The importance of knowing the local language is obvious; the more you can connect with the local people, the better off they will be in receiving the message that you would like them to hear.
An interesting quote that I recently read goes thus:
But we also need a new theology of the Logos. God has never left humankind alone in its pilgrimage. All human beings are created in the image of God (Gen. 1:27), and they experience this self-manifestation of God. They try to live in that image of God within their own cultural surroundings, and they express this in various “ways,” the religions of the world. God’s Spirit and Word, the Logos, is active among us from the very beginning of creation until the end of time. The Logos is present in all of us (John 1:4), is eminently present in Jesus, and will be with us until the Second Coming. Followers of the Way of Jesus are not living in a ghetto, separated from other human beings. They are copilgrims with a special task and mission: to be faithful in the search for fullness, helping themselves and others to grow in God’s way. Christians should be a light, leaven, a mustard seed.
~Camps, Arnulf. “My pilgrimage in mission.”
Therefore, learning the language of the locals is so important even if to see things from their perspective. In learning about linguistic anthropology we know that sometimes languages can influence ways of thought. One example is the gender system of many languages. Spanish speakers will tend to think of inanimate objects as having either masculine or feminine qualities depending on the gender that they are assigned in Spanish.
Ultimately this means that we have a long way to go in terms of fully committing to service in any language. You must pour yourself into it as into earthen vessels.
Obviously translation has a huge impact, especially in terms of biblical translations. Translations of the bible, even to one single word, can alter the fates of many. Therefore we must take care in how we translate our ideas, and keep one ear towards the Spirit for guidance.
Language barriers in religion can have a multitude of consequences. The most obvious is the translation of the Bible, and the multitude of consequences that mere words can have on the direction of the church as well as the entire Christian religion. Take for example the fact that even early Protestants didn’t quite read the bible as is today:
It has long been assumed that reading “the Word” in Reformation Germany meant reading Holy Writ as Luther translated it and as his publisher, Hans Lufft, printed it in Wittenberg — and as it was borrowed or pirated and published all over German-speaking central Europe. The publishing history of devotional literature, however, suggests a much more complex picture of “the Word” and a far more extensive set of genres and titles. More often than not, the common man, woman and child read their Word not in the canonical biblical text, but on the pages of any of a variety of collected excerpts from it.(2) Such a volume might be a simple verse-a-day collection for the calendar year. Or it might eschew biblical text altogether and include only explanatory chapter headings taken from the Luther translation, as did Veit Dietrich’s summaries of the entire Bible for children.3
If we stop and think about it, it’s difficult to nitpick based on singular words or verses from the bible when perhaps whole periods of time have gone by without much literal attention paid to the actual words in the Bible themselves.
Translation from one language to the next leaves so much to be desired, especially from ancient languages whose idioms we may have lost for good, and whose application of certain words are not an exact science all the time, and it’s mostly educated guesses. The fact that entire groups of people are persecuted based on the results (sometimes biased) of these educated guesses is absurd.
The thing that we must remember is that the Bible should be taken perhaps not quite so literally as figuratively – and whose meaning is more plastic than rigid when it comes to application to the society and culture of the times. This is a tough pill for many literalists to swallow, and indeed for many Christians to follow as well. One issue that might be applicable to this debate is the gay marriage issue. The translation in recent times may leave much to be desired, as new research shows that perhaps the church’s stance must be reconsidered.