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Language Learning and Appreciating Others

Our family started with MAF in Lesotho in June last year. While we were eager to “get to work,” our program manager encouraged us to see the benefits of learning to speak Sesotho first. While we could probably get by without it, knowing how to communicate in someone’s home language goes a long way in reflecting our love for them. We have spent the last seven months learning, and as I now fly with patients from deep in the mountains, many of whom have no understanding of English, I have been finding it valuable for me and comforting to them to be able to communicate. Not only that, but it feels like as soon as the first Sesotho sentence comes out of my mouth, my passengers always smile, and seem to relax a little bit more.

The Strugnell family: Grant and Emily with their daughter Jane.

Over the last few weeks, I have been thinking more seriously about how to take the language learning we have started, and build on it, instead of letting it stagnate. In this pursuit, I have been listening to various podcasts about how to better learn a language.

One podcast a few days ago really caught my attention. In a quick passing phrase, the host said something like: “By its nature, language learning requires us to be tolerant of others’ differences, across culture, race, and color.”

This struck me, and I thought about that over the next few days.

I have always read the story of Babel, the Old Testament account of when God created all the different languages, and thought of it in a traditional sense: God didn’t want Man to be too powerful, so he confused their language and made it harder to communicate.

But after hearing that comment in the podcast, I began to wonder: What if one of the reasons God gave us language was to help us slow down, interact with each other more intentionally, and try to gain an understanding of one another before we rush off to “be productive.”

As I wrestle through learning this language, I appreciate more and more the people behind the language, their way of life and their view of the world. If we take the time to learn, we avoid trampling all over people who are different from us, and instead learn to slow down, listen more, and appreciate them.


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