Foreign country, foreign language, foreign culture: Keeping your mission language current

Return To Article
Add a comment
  • KurtFK Littleton, CO
    Jan. 16, 2012 6:45 p.m.

    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...

  • Shawnm750 West Jordan, UT
    Jan. 16, 2012 4:28 p.m.

    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.

  • jkcook Petersaurach, Germany
    Jan. 14, 2012 3:12 p.m.

    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 language
    Finding a childcare giver who spoke the language and used it with my kids
    Translating in church and other situations when possible
    Visiting 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 there
    Getting music CDs (especially church hymns and primary songs) in the language and singing along

  • Mike B TUCSON, AZ
    Jan. 14, 2012 7:13 a.m.

    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.

  • NDM Vienna, Austria
    Jan. 13, 2012 10:38 p.m.

    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.

  • Utes Fan Salt Lake City, UT
    Jan. 13, 2012 4:06 p.m.

    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.)

  • Utahgrandma Salt Lake City, Utah
    Jan. 13, 2012 12:02 p.m.

    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.

  • Dayzd Salem, OR
    Jan. 13, 2012 10:15 a.m.

    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.

  • BobP Port Alice, B.C.
    Jan. 13, 2012 9:22 a.m.

    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.

  • J-TX Allen, TX
    Jan. 13, 2012 7:50 a.m.

    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.

  • Clifton Palmer McLendon Gilmer, Texas
    Jan. 13, 2012 7:40 a.m.

    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.

  • BalancedFulfilledLife MISSOURI CITY, TX
    Jan. 13, 2012 7:39 a.m.

    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. :-)