The Lord orchestrated the perfect opportunity for Betsy and our co-worker Emily, to participate in a 80 hour GPA course. The GPA (Growing Participators Approach) is an innovative and relationship-focused approach to entering a host culture’s world through language learning. The training course provided an understanding of the GPA’s foundational principles, an overview of the six phases, and real-time experiences in the learning activities.
And when our family arrives in Central Africa, you will certainly be hearing more about the GPA as this is the approach our field will be using. It is a huge step forward for our small team to be prepared to enter Central Africa and engage in our language and culture studies. More than that, it will allow us to be dependent on and build strong relationships in the community around us. Interestingly, this was the first time the course was offered in the United States–and it happened to be in MO–just two hours away from the training center.
The GPA approach highlights the importance of learning language in much the same way a child learns language, first through listening and comprehension, and then speaking single words which grow into more complex speech patterns. It strongly emphasizes that language and culture cannot be separated. Another foundational principle is that language is best learned in the context of relationship within the host culture.
Since the approach is based in relationships with host culture people, we are praying even now for our initial “nurturers”—individuals who will be the first to invite us into their “languacultural” world. Pray with us for God to be preparing these individuals with a heart for the task. Pray we will be teachable and humble as we work towards the process of becoming relevant individuals–even blessings–in our new surroundings.
The early phases are very hands-on and use as many real-life objects, actions, toys and books as possible during participation in learning activities with the nurturer (native-speaker). The latter phases 4-6 still depend on interaction with language helpers, but the added conversational ability allow the setting to take place in daily contexts and within a wider range of relationships. Betsy and Emily are gathering the needed supplies to send ahead with Christian in extra luggage this coming June!
One of the reasons this approach is so useful is it really allows us to enter the culture as learners. It will not be easy, as in many ways we are becoming like children who need time (and patience from the host culture!) to grow into adults. But it also gives us a chance to imitate Christ who in ultimate humility, emptied himself and was born into the likeness of man. (Philippians 2:5-8)