Friday, March 21, 2014

Language Learning By Marcia Lee Laycock

My face was beet red. I slouched into my chair with a dismal sigh. Bruno, my language teacher, having not the slightest inclination to save my damaged pride, was laughing. I managed a weak smile. It was a bit funny. I had just asked him if he wanted his sister in his coffee. When he stopped laughing, he told me the correct phrase and made me practice it several times. The difference between the word sister and the word sugar was in a single vowel. It was not my first nor last mistake of the day.

Later that afternoon, I despaired again of ever being able to speak Melanesian Pigeon, as another teacher outlined the grammatical structure of the language. I could barely remember English grammar, let alone bend my brain around a language made up of three European lexicons with a few national languages thrown in for flavour. By the end of that day, my enthusiasm for learning the trade language of Papua New Guinea had vanished. It was then I realized I didn’t want to learn it, I just wanted to know how to speak it.

I wanted to be able to communicate with the people we were to live with, so I had to dispel the illusion that I was going to wake up one morning and be fluent in their language. I had to face the fact that I had to work at it. I had to face the fact that I was going to make a lot of mistakes. I was going to be laughed at. I was going to feel dumb and have to continually ask questions. I was going to have to get used to having to listen so intently my head hurt. I was going to have to get used to being like a little child, again and again.

When I came to terms with that reality, a surprising thing happened. The process became a delight. I looked forward to going to the market to learn new names for old vegetables. I relished going to work, so I could learn new expressions and phrases. I loved standing in the middle of a crowd of black faces and just soaking in the sound. And best of all, I loved being able to communicate easily with the people around me. As my language skills grew so did my delight in living among them.

Such is the journey of a Christ follower – it’s the journey of a child, a journey of continually learning, listening, asking questions, making mistakes, yet continuing on because there is such delight in growing closer to and growing more and more like our master. When we come to terms with that reality we realize it’s worth the effort because the joy of being in His presence and soaking Him in can be compared to no other.

In Matthew 18, the disciples asked Jesus who would be the greatest in God’s kingdom. Perhaps they thought they’d learned enough, and done enough, to merit that position. Jesus says: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3-4).

Like a little child – willing to learn, willing to listen, willing to work at it. Again and again. 


Marcia Lee Laycock writes from central Alberta Canada where she is a pastor's wife and mother of three adult daughters. She was the winner of The Best New Canadian Christian Author Award for her novel, One Smooth Stone. Her second novel, A Tumbled Stone was short listed in the contemporary fiction category of The Word Awards, 2013. Marcia also has two devotional books in print. Her work has been endorsed by Sigmund Brouwer, Janette Oke, Phil Callaway and Mark Buchanan. 

Abundant Rain, an ebook devotional for writers can be downloaded here. Visit Marcia’s Website


Peter Black said...

My, Papua New Guinea -- you really do get around Marcia! :)
Thanks for sharing this instructive and encouraging peek into how you moved from an embarrassing and vulnerable place to one of joyful engagement, learning and growth in your following our Lord. ~~+~~

Marcia Laycock said...

Thanks, Peter. Our time there was some years ago now but it still seems like yesterday. The Lord taught me many things while we were there. :)Blessings, m

Glynis said...

Love this, Marcia. I had a little Japanese girl as a student last summer, trying to teach her English. I swear English must be the hardest language to learn - you learn the rules then a whack of exceptions follow. Idioms - when literally translated - sound ridiculous. Poor little Wakana (my student) had her fair share of the equivalent to sisters in the coffee over the summer. :) I really appreciate the way you bring this around to how our Christian life is always a journey with endless opportunities to learn something new every day! So true!

Kathleen Gibson said... your comment about wanting to speak Pigeon, but not learn it. So true. Remember novelist John Moore speaking at Inscribe conference way back when? I often think of one of his comments: "Do you want to write, or do you just want to 'have written?'" Most people ignore the fact that the life we enjoy in the present is the past we'll regret (or not) in the future. In essence, we're daily shaping our future past. Make sense? Thanks for the reminder of how vital it is to practice Christ's presence on our daily journey, my friend. Love this parallel. Thanks.

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