When you were a kid, did your family have “the grownup table” and “the kid table” at large gatherings? I was the baby of my cousins for most of my life, so I don’t think I ever really graduated to “the grownup table”. But I do remember, when I was really little, wandering into the other room where my parents were and knowing all the words the grownups were saying, yet not being able to comprehend what they meant. That is pretty much how I feel in learning Portuguese. There are times where a friend will say something, and I know each individual word, but in a sentence, they make no sense to me. I’m like the little kid at Thanksgiving who knows the words being spoken, but cannot understand the meaning. It can be rather frustrating. And humiliating. I feel foolish.
Learning language is like being a child again, only as an adult, you know how much you don’t know.
Kids, when they start to talk, will say words wrong or mix up words and say something completely different or unintelligible. That is how I currently speak in Portuguese. It’s cute and funny when it’s a 2 or 3 year old. It’s not so cute when it’s a woman in her *ahem* late 20s. It looks foolish.
When you speak to little kids, you usually speak more slowly, use simple terms, and repeat yourself over and over and over. That is how a lot of my friends have to speak to me. Imagine if your friends spoke to you the same way they speak to their toddlers, because it’s the only way you understand. You feel foolish.
That’s just the language side of things. There’s the cultural way of doing things, too. How dishes are washed, how floors are mopped, how food is made. I can do all these things in my culture, but know I am relearning in a new way. I feel foolish.
Almost everyone here gets around by bike. I hadn’t ridden on a bike in years. I hate bikes. I was in a bike accident as a kid and have a big, old scare on my face. I am scared of bikes. I get nervous. And most of the kids here can ride their bikes better than I. I feel so foolish.
I’ve got a confession. I detest being a child. I already was one and I had already become an adult. Only to be a child again? Nope. Not a fan. This has nothing to do with my friends. They are fantastic. They don’t treat me like a child, even though that is how I communicate. They are kind, patient, compassionate. This struggle is all in my heart. It’s pride and arrogance. I hate being foolish.
Learning a new language and culture is a refining process. It’s a pressure cooker that breaks you. But we know what God does in times like this. He molds us into tools for Him.
And that’s why we press on. With whatever refining process He is allowing us to go through. We can rest confident in Him, knowing full well that He is the One who knows everything and He is the One who works in and through us.
And thankfully, He doesn’t use perfect people, since none exist. Nope. God uses the foolish and the weak.
I Corinthians 1:27
“But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;”
And the reality is that with language learning, it’s a season. One day, I will understand. One day, I will be able to communicate. One day, I will be able to sit at the “grownup table.” One day, I’ll be able to work with my friends. One day.
And that is the goal. To learn this language at such a level, that I can be used in ministry and work alongside my brothers and sisters here. So that people who have never heard, can hear.
Because eternity is at stake. Because people matter.
So, if I have to feel humiliated and foolish, so be it. It is worth it in the end.