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Learning your mission language

Learning your mission language

So you've received your call and turns out you'll be learning a new language! It's common to either:

 

1. Freak out because you didn't want to learn a new language.

2. Get excited because this is just what you wanted.

3. Get excited for approximately 10 minutes then start freaking out because you're starting to realize you might be in over your head.

 

Regardless of your reaction, just know that you can do this! You have been called to speak and teach in this language because the Lord knows you're capable of doing so! Still not convinced? Here are a few tips that will help you out:

 

-You have an allotted time at the MTC to learn the basics. Take everything you learn seriously! These basics are SO important and knowing them will help you tremendously once you begin working in the field.

-Read the textbook that you are given at the MTC. Study it and highlight all the rules, especially the ones that you have a hard time with. 

-Use the grammar workbook and pay attention to the sections with common phrases.

-Read the Book of Mormon in your mission language. Write down any words you are unfamiliar with and look them up. Read it aloud as well.

-Carry a notecard around with you everyday and write down the things you hear but don't understand, as well as the things you want to say but don't know how. Look these words and phrases up and try to use them as often as possible the following day.

-Make flash cards with new verbs and study them.

-Read General Conference talks in english and then translate them into your language aloud.

-Listen to talks in your mission language and then repeat exactly what is being said (without pausing) while copying the accent.

-Listen to mission appropriate songs that are in your mission language. Sing along!

-Read the Friend or other church magazines in your language to learn everyday speech.

-Make phone calls by yourself. You will probably hate your trainer for making you do it, but it is SO helpful. Understanding a native is hard enough when they're right in front of you and speaking, but somehow it's twice as hard understand them over the phone. Even if you ask them to repeat themselves 10 times, it's better than not using the phone at all! 

-Chapter 7 in Preach My Gospel is dedicated to all of you learning a new language. Study it and practice their tips as well!
Pray for the gift of tongues. It is real!

-Make a study plan. Include what you will study, when you will study it, and for how long each day. 

-Don't be afraid to make mistakes! Everyone does, and no one expects you to speak perfectly the first day in the field. It takes months for most missionaries to finally feel comfortable in their mission language. So keep talking!

Most importantly, speak the language as often as possible. A good trainer will make you do this. When I arrived in the field my trainer and I decided to speak the mission language every other day. Often I hated the language days because they wore me out. I started to envy the english speaking missionaries. However, it all proved to be extremely effective! By the end of my first transfer I was able to hold decent conversations in the language. My second trainer, a native, didn't speak english so I had no choice but to speak in the mission language. This was the best thing for learning! By the end of my second transfer I was almost fluent and able to speak to anyone about almost anything. I still didn't speak perfectly, and even today I don't. But, I progressed far more quickly than I would have had I not spoken the language so frequently. 

 

These are all study ideas that have helped many, but remember that everyone learns differently and not all of them will work for you. Figure out how you learn best and build your study plan around it. 

 

Remember Nephi's wise words: 

1 Nephi 3:7-"I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them."

 

Comments

  1. Richard Richard

    Thanks for the clever tips! One of the challenges of language learning while on a mission is that you're often limited to reading materials that have been translated (sometimes not very well) from English and are lacking in style and idiomatic structures. Missionaries then "infect" each other with Americanisms that sound very odd to a native ear. I fully support "shadowing" (repeating out loud without pausing) any talks delivered by native speakers.

    As for what to jot down on notecards, here I would suggest a seemingly slight, but significant shift in focus. Instead of writing down new words, write down things you understand, but wouldn't have been able to say yourself. This should also include corrections you're given and things you say that you're not 100% of. Then, back home, check your notes using the best dictionaries and resources you can find, and transfer them to a vocabulary notebook. Make an audio recording of the notes and listen to it a few dozen times over the coming weeks.

    I used this method to achieve after 6 months in the field (St. Petersburg, Russia) a larger active vocabulary and higher level of proficiency in Russian than even the best speakers among departing missionaries.

    If you search "Frictionless Mastery" you can find out more about my method and accompanying pocketbook for learning any language to any level.

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