Sadly, I have not had much opportunity to use my French in the past 40 years.
However, I'm confident that the Gift of Tongues is not limited to 19 year old
missionaries. My wife studied 8 years of French in school a long time ago, and
if the Lord calls us to a French-speaking mission, I'm sure He will provide a
way for us to rise to the occasion.I have found that reading the
scriptures in French is of limited use, because they were translated with the
archaic French conjugations which are not used in conversational French nowdays.
It would be like walking up to someone and speaking to them in Shakespearean (or
King James) English, forsooth...
I keep up on my Italian by reading (almost) daily, and not just LDS
publications, but I read Italian news websites, and use Google to translate
those words I don't know. I also did some course work at the U which helped me
take my language to the next level. For those pursuing a BA in college, if you
speak well enough you can use that language to get through school quicker by
taking an MLA test.I think it's so sad to spend 2 years trying to
learn and perfect a foreign language, only to come home and let it slip away.
Many of my former mission friends can hardly speak a work of Italian anymore,
which is even more sad because there are relatively few Italian-speakers in the
world compared to other languages like Spanish, French or even German.
In addition to reading my scriptures and church magazines aloud, things I've
found helpful are: Listening (and following along if I have the Liahona)
to conference and temple sessions in my mission languageFinding a
childcare giver who spoke the language and used it with my kidsTranslating
in church and other situations when possibleVisiting countries and areas
that speak the language--those Danish speakers could go to Solvang! :-) Connecting with former missionary companions and friends on facebook or your
mission's website and using the language thereGetting music CDs
(especially church hymns and primary songs) in the language and singing along
Years ago I was told of a LDS tourist who was injured in an automobile accident
near Guadalajara, Mexico. His grandfather who went there to help him had served
a mission in Mexico about 40 years before. When the grandfather arrived he was
discouraged because he realized he had almost completely forgotten Spanish.
However, I was told that after two weeks he was able to speak almost as well as
when he was a missionary. The language must be still stored somewhere in your
brain and it is much easier to relearn it than one thinks. Those of
us who learned Spanish are fortunate because we have many opportunities to use
the language. My ward in Tucson, AZ has 4 native Spanish speakers and about a
dozen members who served missions in Spanish, one served 60 years ago. He and
all the others speak good Spanish.
Many people think language is simple substitution: this word in English
precisely matches that word in the language. Nothing could be further from the
truth. Different languages handle ideas differently, sometimes radically so.
When you (properly) learn a foreign language, the neurons in your brain open new
pathways. There is evidence that learning and improving foreign languages may
help keep things like Alzheimer's at bay.Are you maintaining your
mission language? Great! Keep it up and consider learning a new one besides. You
may be needed somewhere you haven't even thought of.
I served a mission to Italy over 20 years ago. Sadly, I have not kept up on the
language, but I still know it a bit. Funny thing is, I occasionally have a dream
in Italian, and I am very fluent when dreaming! Also, connecting on Facebook
with people I knew on my mission who speak Italian helps (they post in Italian.)
One of the best ways to keep your language current is to invite foreign exchange
students into your home. My husbands mission language was Japanese and over the
course of 30 years we had 13 Japanese exchange students in our home. His
language stayed current and I was able to learn quite a lot too. I don't speak
very well (too slow) but I understand most of what is being said around me so I
can follow conversations and church meetings pretty well. My husband
always said the Lord had invested two years into teaching him how to speak
Japanese and it was his duty to keep that language sharp so the Lord could use
it whenever he needed. A senior mission to Japan was just one of the many times
he has been able to use his language.
A couple of years ago I decided to not only to get my mission language back, but
to improve it by adding everyday vocabulary that as a missionary I didn't have
the opportunity to learn. I got a couple of Dutch-only eDictioaries and have
been reading church materials and novels at the the rate of one a month. There
is increasingly much free foreign language reading material on the internet.
Language changes a lot in 40+ years. Even if I don't go on another mission I
enjoy getting not only my mission language upgraded but also my college German
which I thought was irretrievable.
A number of years ago in my ward in Edmonton, Alberta, in Canada was known as
the newly weds and the nearly deads. I was made up of old line members and
ubiversity students in the professional faculties.We had a Latin
American fellow, a member of the church just arrived as a refugee, come into the
Chapel. Within 5 minutes we had several Spanish speaking ex-missionaries
talking to him. We even found one who spoke hs first language - Quetzal.Keep up your language skills.
While I admit my experience has been easier than most - I went to Mexico 30
years ago, hung out with the Latinos in college, worked in hospitality for 10+
years, so I always had someone to speak Spanish with - the last 16 years working
in technology, I have not had many people to talk to.Some
suggestions - -I take every opportunity to speak with others who are
speaking Spanish when I am out - shopping, running errands, at the gas
station.-I subscribe to the Liahona in Spanish and make sure I read
it every month. Sometimes the Ensign in English would sit there for a month
without my reading more than the HT message, but now I have dual purpose.-Before I left my mission, I purchased a set of Spanish translation
"classics" in a book store - Dickens, Tolstoy, Marquez, others. I
find time to read these and other Spanish publications.-Read them
out loud. Comprehending is half of it. Being able to reproduce the sounds
correctly and with fluency is where most of us fail over time. Here's a
suggestion - I fly a lot, and can read out loud in a low voice, well disguised
by the engine noise.
The author writes: "Those who have kept up their language skills will
approach subsequent missions and language requirements with less
temerity.""Temerity" means "reckless
boldness."Given the tone of the article, the noun
"timidity" would have been more to the point.
When I got married, my husband was counseled to teach me the language he spoke
on his mission. I wonder if that is more for him or for me...or maybe for both
of us. We are chipping away at it. :-)