“How Is Language Study Coming Along?” – Questions You Can Ask a Missionary, Part 3

Our friends (and fellow missionaries) Keith and Lori Doster recently linked to an article about stressors that missionaries face. The original article is called 12 Questions You Can Ask a Missionary to Help Them Stay on the Field. Missionaries are not unique to these stressors; however, they do face them in situations where they often feel vulnerable and lonely.

If you know any missionaries, I encourage you to support and encourage them by asking one or more of these questions (but not all 12 at once!). For the sake of our friends, supports, and blog-readers, I wanted to proactively answer these questions over the next few months. (Of course, feel free to ask us these questions personally.)

question_mark_sign fotopedia Colin_K

Question 3:   “How is language study coming along?”

When these questions were written, the authors were obviously (or at least, mostly) thinking of overseas missionaries, not the family who just moved three hours down the road. In Allendale, we don’t have a language barrier. Everyone here speaks English.

Well, not everyone. Of the 2% of the population that is Hispanic, many of them only know Spanish. I wish I could go back in time and make a better effort to learn Spanish. I was just trying to get it done in high school, and focus on the fun classes like science and math. Years ago it hit me that if I could speak Spanish, there would be so many more people I could connect with and help. (And with a last name of Espinosa, our Hispanic friends expect me to speak Espanol.)

So, I haven’t had to learn to speak a new language. But there is a certain low-country dialect that is unique to the area. Plus, with 10 years of hits to the head from playing football, and 10 years of working in a lab with constant background noise, I don’t think my hearing is up to par. I regularly have to ask people to repeat themselves.

Talking on the phone is worse. Many males (especially) tend to mumble words together (at least from my perspective). When you couple that with spotty cellular service in this area, you won’t be surprised that I preferring talking in person or texting, instead of calling on the phone.

And while there is not a true “language barrier,” communication can still be challenging. A phone number you get on a registration form may be inactive 4 days later, as well as physical addresses. Voice mail boxes are often full, or never set up (then again, my wife just set hers us a few weeks ago).

Few people have regular access to email, and fewer like to use it. If you need to get a document to a business, you are asked to “fax it over” more than you are asked to “scan and email it.”

Communication can be plain tricky. But I’ve learned one important “trick” over the past couple of years, when it comes to getting something done or exchanging information with someone.

Instead of calling on the phone or texting, it’s usually easier to just stop by.

Seriously, for the time you can spend trying to leave messages, you are usually better off just driving down the road and talking to the person face-to-face. And it feels more personal, too. (And if you need something, it’s harder for someone to tell you “no” to your face.”)

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