Language learning is hard.
At the end of our 5th and 7th weeks in the class, we took an evaluation (my final one was on Friday). It’s not a test, as much as it is a tool to see where you are and what you can do to continue growing.
After my first evaluation, I learned that I had a lot more growing to do. I did really well for being in this country for less than 3 months, studying language for 5 weeks, and having a nervous breakdown at the beginning of the evaluation. But I didn’t do as well as some of the others in the class (one being my tri-lingual husband who has spent more of his lifetime in this country than his own, hmm…) and I didn’t do as well as I thought I should have, because I obviously know so much about this language. That horrible pride appeared and I lost all grace, said mean things to my teachers (whom I actually adore!), and was an all around Nasty Nelly for a few days.
But sometimes God uses a bad “grade” to show you your need for His grace; and sometimes that grace needs to come from yourself to yourself.
Once I realized 1) that it was totally okay to not by the best in the class, 2) that language learning is really hard, and 3) that no matter what level I am at no one is going to kick me out of the country, language became more fun. I spent a lot more time over the next two weeks chatting with some of the local (Pidgin-speaking) girls, just telling stories about our homes, our days, our families, and other normal everyday things. Nothing formal, just conversation over coffee.
At the end of the two weeks, I went to take my final evaluation with much less anticipation as before. We did the evaluation in less time than the first one, and with much more laughter. And I scored even higher than I thought I would have. I gave myself grace to mess up, to be slower than somebody else, and to not be the best, quickest, most fluent Pidgin speaker of all time.
Even though it was a wretched thing to go through, I am so thankful for that initial “bad grade” on my first eval in language class. I feel I have come out on the other side a nicer and more empathetic person for it.
To all those bush missionaries out there (or maybe you know a bush missionary) who is learning a language right now… I get it. It’s really hard, you feel like an idiot a lot of the time, and you’re probably competing with yourself and your teammates, even though you don’t really want to. Your tongue has a hard time with those new words, even though you know you know them, and you can’t always remember your pronouns. Give yourself some grace to mess up and to be slower to speak than somebody else.