Mistake #2. Not Focusing on Language.
I know that a missionary should focus on language work before and during the time on the field. I never really did this. There are a few reasons:
1. Baguio is, perhaps, the most English-friendly city in Philippines… perhaps in all of Southeast Asia. I have met two, maybe three people in Baguio who did not speak English. <However, many/most are more comfortable in another language. and one does not have to travel far outside of Baguio when English becomes foreign.>
2. I kept bouncing back and forth on what language to focus on. The national language is Tagalog. The regional trade language is Ilocano. The local tribal languages are Kankana-ey and Ibaloi. The most useful language to learn is Tagalog, but its impact is less… there are a lot of foreigners who can magsalita ng Tagalog. Kankana-ey and Ibaloi really opens doors to tens of thousands of people… but the impact is very regional. Ilocano is in between. I spent way too long trying to decide what to focus on.
3. I focused on other training, my M.Div. and Th.D., all training done in English. That took me close to 8 years. I should have incorporated my language work into my other training, but I did not.
4. My wife speaks four languages. Outside of English, she is fluent in Tagalog, Ilocano, and Kapampangan. So I never felt that much pressure to learn.
5. Yes, I was lazy. I like to learn. But I don’t like learning languages. I am not good at it… it is a struggle for me. But that is not a good enough reason.
Language matters. Heart language does matter for aiding understanding. Additionally, learning a person’s language shows you care. A missionary goes to the people but without working hard to learn the language, he is not going all the way to the people.
It’s not too late. I’ve got work to do.
- Bilingual From the Womb (scienceabstracts.wordpress.com)