For the last 6 years I’ve gotten by without out seriously studying Russian language but that all changed recently when I decided to go back to my studies.
You might wonder why I decided to go back to Russian language study after a 6 year break.
Let me share with you a few reasons why I’m taking up the books again.
I spent a lot of time during my first year in Ukraine studying Russian. On average during the first year I would meet with my language teacher about 3 times a week for two hours each time. In addition to this I also had an hour or two of homework each day.
That helped me develop fast in the language.
During my second year it became harder to meet regularly because of ministry demands. I dropped to twice a week sessions with my language teacher.
But that was all 6 plus years ago. I stopped my formal studies after the second year in Ukraine and everything I’ve learned since then has been of a combination of “on the job” learning and a few corrections here and there from my Russian speaking wife!
You should know that I don’t speak the language badly. In fact Russian speakers often compliment me on my language. I preach regularly in Russian, I can hold my own in a conversation and I know enough to do everything I need to survive here.
Nevertheless my language skills are far from perfect. So here are a few reasons I decided to pick up my language studies again.
1. Language is the basis for all relationships
I can’t expect to cultivate God honoring, gospel centered relationships without good language skills.
John tells us that Jesus came as the Word and lived among us (John 1:14) The whole concept of the Word in John chapter one indicates the importance of language and communication in our relationships.
Jesus came not simply live and die and be resurrected. He came to us, to live with us, to die and be resurrected for us. Not only was He called the Word but be He was also called “Immanuel/God with us”
If I want to be like Christ I must develop my language center every relationship on gospel truth.
2. My ministry depends on how well I can communicate
I preach and teach regularly and I often meet with other Church leaders. Simply put the more accurate and agile I can be with the language the better I’m able to minister to those to whom God has sent me.
3. Not developing my language isn’t an option
I’m keenly aware that there’s really no such thing as a plateau in learning. I’m either learning something or I’m losing something. I’m either growing or I’m rotting.
I’d rather not rot!
So onward and upward I go.
4. Poor grammar and pronunciation is disrespectful to my listeners.
Bad pronunciation, wrong grammatical endings, and stumbling over words that I should know does not show love or respect for those to whom I’m speaking.
Yes, those things can be overlooked and forgiven in the first few months or even year of service.
But if you continue making the same mistakes, it simply conveys a lack of respect for those around you. Not only may it be difficult for others to understand you but it’s also unpleasant to hear your mistakes.
It tells others that you don’t care about them enough to invest time and effort into fixing your mistakes.
And what happens when you can’t properly understand the person talking to you? This is also unpleasant for others and can make it so people avoid you or at the very least cause them to have to repeat themselves often.
5. It helps me better understand the culture I live in
Culture and language are existentially intertwined.
I may have lived in Ukraine for 8 years already but I find that the culture is deep, much deeper than I could learn in a few years.
Development of language should include reading some of that language’s historically famous authors. There’s nothing like digging into classical literature to help you understand a culture better.
You could read a translation but you’d be missing a lot!
6. It’s good for my brain
I’ve read a number of studies which show that language learning is one of the best things you can do for your brain.
It can improve your memory, help you understand your native language better, even stave off Alzheimer’s!
Most importantly it can simply help you think better! As humans we process our thoughts in language. Increasing your vocabulary, and learning new ways to express ideas will help you to think better about those ideas.