The importance – and danger – of language fluency

From my journal this morning (using the SOAP method):

Scripture:  Genesis 11:6–7 (NIV) – The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.  Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”
Observation:  Yahweh said that the people building the tower of Babel would be able to do anything they had planned if they were one people and spoke one language.    Given this unity based upon a common language, nothing they would plan would be impossible for them.  Without any language barriers, people are able to accomplish much more than if they speak various languages.    But this ability to accomplish their plans and build impressive structures is not something that God necessarily wants to encourage.



Application:  I repeatedly see how much more intelligent I appear in meetings if I am speaking in English than if I am functioning in Russian.  My contribution in a mission leadership meeting conducted in English yesterday afternoon was at a very different level than what I had to say at the church plant in the evening.   But this passage reminds me that God is not impressed with fluency of speech and great plans that can be implemented without any communication barriers.   He would prefer that we struggle with languages if in our weakness we seek to exalt Him, rather than seeking to build a name for ourselves (Gen 11:4).   At the same time, we see the huge potential for accomplishing something very significant when we can speak without language barriers.  But this planning, however fluently communicated and flawlessly executed, is worthless in God’s sight if not done in submission to the Lord’s plans and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  


Prayer: Lord, I do not want language barriers to hinder my ability to contribute what you want me to contribute to our church plant here in Kiev.   Thank you for the measure of fluency that I do have, and the constant motivation to keep improving.   Help us to communicate clearly enough so that your purposes are accomplished, but thank you for the constant reminders of my limitations, since through them, I recognize that anything that has been accomplished has been done by your strength. — so that it will always be your name that is exalted.

Check out the language learning resources listed on the SEND U wiki.  

I also would like to commend the language learning activities developed by the Centre for Lifelong Learning of TEAM.   They have developed 60 language learning activities for both the beginner and intermediate level, and each one of them is connected to a cultural exploration activity.   These guided discovery activities for language and culture learners are based on work done by Herb Purnell (professor emeritus of applied linguistics and TESOL, Biola University) and adapted by Jean Sodemann (International Language Learning Consultant, ret., TEAM) in consultation with the Centre for Lifelong Learning.

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