Now that we live on Manam Island and are in the throws of learning a tribal language, we have consultants who come in from time to time in order to measure how we are coming along. These consultants are veteran missionaries that have learned a language in the same manner as us and have been trained in being able to assess one’s progress in language learning without actually knowing the language.
Once we moved to Manam, we had a 1 month warmup period. During this time we learned basic greetings and did a lot of listening to the language in order to gain an ear for the different sounds they make. After one month, we had consultants come and give us a “kickoff”. This was a time when they reminded us of tools and strategies for language learning that we learned about in training (which seems like a lifetime ago).
After our kickoff, we had 3 months before our first evaluation. This is a very short time, but the reason they come so soon is to check to see if we have any bad habits, as it’s better to fix those on the front end before they become engrained in you language learning process. After the first evaluation, consultants come every 6 months to reevaluate our abilities and give us direction moving forward until we reach our goal. At that evaluation, in May 2018, we were at level 2. Our goal is level 9, in which we will be able to speak and explain how to speak in different genres (narrative, persuasive, procedural/instructive).
After that May 2018 evaluation, we had 2 full months of study before we had to deal with evacuations due to our volcano and then our scheduled home assignment from late October 2018 until August 2019. Since returning, we’ve had another 4 months of getting back into culture and language acquisition and building on what we had already learned. This leads us up to this past weekend when we had our second evaluation.
After a total of 9 months of active culture and language study, we are officially at level 5 of 9! This means we are speaking primarily in complete sentences. Moving forward we will be working on our fluidity of speech and joining those sentences into paragraphs and then those paragraphs into full stories, teaching lessons, and persuasive arguments. Throughout this process, we will be continually growing our vocabulary, learning complex grammar, and diving deeper into culture. Right now we have a pretty good grasp on the physical things in culture, now we are growing in our understanding of societal culture. Eventually, we will need to fully understand the Manam worldview and create a strategy with our coworkers on how to teach the truths in God’s Word into this cultural grid.
Thanks for praying and giving to see a thriving church establish among the Manam people! We really couldn’t do this without y’all doing your part. One day our (yes, that includes you on the other side of the world) collective faithfulness to God’s commands will be represented by Manam brothers and sisters worshipping alongside us before the throne in eternity, giving Christ the honor He has always been due. I know it will happen because God’s Word says as much, and when God says something, it’s going to happen!