Godspeed Missions with The Scripture Scout

The Light of Understanding:

Total Immersion in Language and Culture

1 Corinthians 13:1, Colossians 3:17, Proverbs 16:24

The Light of Understanding:  Total Immersion in Language and Culture

The Light of Understanding:

Total Immersion in Language and Culture

I'll bet you have had experiences in another culture where you were stumbling over their language and finally heard someone answer you in yours. Relief, huh? I do believe that if you were to go and LIVE in any other country, it you would do your best to immerse yourself in the language and the culture so that each day the “light” of understanding would be brighter and brighter. You would also learn more about the people and what they were trying to teach you, right? Culture and education are highly integrated, whether recognised or not. You are already aware, I am sure, that culture IS an education and there are a legion of benefits of learning a second language.

Learning a new language is a journey that encompasses much more than just mastering grammar and vocabulary; it is an exploration of culture, identity, and human connection. For many, becoming bilingual or multilingual opens doors to new friendships, unique experiences, and an enriched world understanding.

This journey often begins with moments of frustration and confusion but gradually blossoms into a tapestry of cherished memories and personal growth. As we delve into the stories and insights from varied experiences, I hope they at least a little shed light on the profound impact of language learning on both the individual and the wider community.

A Love for the Language

The opening to 1 Corinthians 13, right? "If I speak with the tongues of men and angels but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal." I love this verse, especially how The Message version puts it:

"If I speak with human eloquence

and angelic ecstasy but don't love,

I'm nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate."  

1 Corinthians 13:1

North American at Heart

Though I may live elsewhere, I will always be a North American. Living in another country or not having a bilingual education doesn't change who I am. Despite speaking a different language at home, when I am somewhere else, I am in THEIR comfort zone, speaking THEIR language. But if I don't have love ... creeeeeeeak goes the rusty gate.

Language and Identity

"Language is a key element of culture and identity," says Professor Guadalupe Valdés, a renowned scholar in bilingual education. "Encouraging bilingualism and biculturalism helps individuals maintain their heritage while adapting to new environments." (Read more on her research).

A bilingual educator once said he didn't need to learn about his Mexican roots, just how to read and write. While I agree that understanding one's roots can inspire others to dive into English while remembering their heritage, some encourage Spanish speakers to forget their roots, even poking fun at those who shop at Mexican stores. Hey, I enjoy shopping at Mexican stores! This seems like a hunger for English over memory, which I need clarification on doesn't. Creeeeeeeak.

Real Mission Work

I appreciate Tanya speaking to the girls at a Group Home in Spanish. Though she wasn't their educator, they shared that common ground which helped them understand and appreciate each other's culture over time. This interaction exemplifies actual mission work—putting love into action.

"Gracious words are a honeycomb,

sweet to the soul and healing to the bones."   

Proverbs 16:24

There is great importance in speaking kindly and gracefully; how we use our language can also be a source of comfort and healing. Despite the challenges of being chastised for doing it and yes, even calling it a 'dirty language,' Tanya's humility and love for her administrators highlighted her belief that love never gives up, and nothing else mattered in her work. Tanya is now still talking "dirty" in the best possible way every chance she gets! Thank God!

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Cultural Immersion Experiences

(aka The Lighter Side of Language Learning)

I almost entitled this post, "Tamale Mistakes and Marketplace Marvels" and you are about to find out why. ;0)

  • You Are What You Say (*cough cough*)

Let me paint you a picture: Imagine my first few weeks in Honduras, where every day was an adventure in linguistic mishaps. Picture this: I'm asking a shopkeeper for "peach" (durazno). Still, instead, I had misunderstood what I was asked to pick up there and confidently ask for a "asno" only" to find out that that's kinda like calling someone a "jackass." Cue the awkward laughter and my rapid retreat from the store. Nothing humbles you faster or makes you more relatable than an excellent ol' language slip-up.

  • Unlikely Friendships

One of the unexpected perks of immersing yourself in another language and culture is the friendships you form. Take my dear friend, Adilia, for instance. We bonded over our disdain for those pesky cows that seemed to muddy our laundry spot. Over time, what started as a practical partnership turned into an unshakeable friendship. Juana even introduced me to local delicacies, like tamales wrapped in banana leaves, which, at first sight, I mistook for a giant insect. Spoiler: they were delicious!

"And whatever you do, whether in word or deed,

do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus,

giving thanks to God the Father through him." 

Colossians 3:17

  • Celebrating Small Wins

In language learning, it's vital to celebrate the small victories. For instance, the day I successfully navigated a bustling Central American market without getting lost or accidentally buying a live chicken was one for the books! After bargaining for fresh fruit using my newly acquired language skills, I felt like I had conquered the world. The fruit I had chosen may have been a bit overripe, but the exhilaration of being understood was certainly fresh.

  • Cultural Curiosities

Let's also consider the quirky cultural insights you gain. Did you know it's ordinary in some parts of Central America to communicate with your neighbours through a series of whistles? I learned this after mistakenly thinking the entire village had a bird-calling competition. It turns out, my whistling attempts were both amusingly horrid but warmly received.

I was "La Gringa Pajarita" - the "little North American bird.

I share these memories because in the grand scheme of language learning, these little stories and experiences, even when embarrassing or humourous, help us understand and appreciate a culture profoundly and genuinely.

I pray you approach any language learning and/or cultural immersion with a spirit of gratitude and purpose, always keeping our higher calling in mind.

quotes about language learning, Goodreads

The Transformational Journey

Each scripture verse in this post remind us that our words carry weight and power. When we blend love, grace, and intentionality with our newfound linguistic skills, we can foster deeper connections and enrich our interactions, truly living out the teachings of our faith.

In conclusion, the arduous yet rewarding language learning journey is far more than merely acquiring a new communication method; it's about bridging worlds and forging profound connections. The missteps, the laughter, the humble pie, and the moments of clarity culminate in a richer, more nuanced understanding of oneself and others.

Language isn't a tool; it's a way of achieving empathy, a catalyst for breaking down barriers and celebrating human diversity. Embracing multilingualism enriches our lives with uncharted possibilities, underscores the beauty of cultural heritage, and ultimately fosters a greater sense of community in an increasingly interconnected world.

So, whether starting or somewhere amid this journey, remember that every word learned is a step closer to a more vibrant, compassionate, and interconnected existence. Keep speaking, learning, and growing—because the world needs your voice.

"To have another language is to possess a second soul."


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Your Turn: Share Your Stories

Now that you've journeyed with me through my language-learning adventure, I want to hear from you! Have you ever had a memorable language slip-up or formed an unexpected friendship due to cultural immersion? Perhaps you've encountered unique cultural practices that left you in awe or made you smile.

Share your experiences in the comments below—whether they are funny, insightful, or heartwarming, your stories can inspire and encourage others navigating the fascinating path of language and culture. Let's celebrate our shared journey to navigate and connect with the world through language. So, let's keep speaking, learning, and growing—because together, we can bridge worlds and build a more unified, compassionate global community. Let's continue to embrace the gift of language and all its transformative power. The journey is just beginning!

"The limits of my language mean the limits of my world."

- Ludwig Wittgenstein

Thank you for joining me on this adventure. ¡Hasta luego! (See you later!)