Explore Panel: ‘Did you have trouble learning the language? What are your tips for language learning?’
September 2022
Missionaries are messengers for the gospel. A message is only helpful to those hearing it if they can understand what is being said. That's why learning the language of the people group you are trying to reach is so important! Here are some tips from our missionary panel's language learning experience in this month’s Explore News.

Find Someone Safe to Practice With

"Language learning is definitely a difficult task, and something that everyone feels humbled by at some point along the way. Even the most successful language learners run into those times where they feel like they are failing or not making quick progress. I think the best advice I have is to just keep trying. If you want to speak another language you have to be willing to make mistakes and not worry about it.  Finding people that feel safe, and won't laugh or get frustrated with you as you learn to talk is a big thing."

Talk. Talk. Talk.

"I enjoy learning language, but the gap between studying and being able to use what you have studied is wider than I expected, especially with Japanese. The advice I can give is work hard, but keep your expectations in check. Just because you have studied for a while does not mean you will be able to use everything you have studied. It takes practice. So, Talk. Talk. Talk. Talk even if you sound like an idiot. Find people who don’t mind idiots and who will help you sound like less of one."

Men making octopus balls in a mall
Simple tasks, like ordering food at a restaurant, can become difficult when you don't know the language.
Photo by: John E., SEND Missionary in Japan

Listen. Listen. Listen.

"We started learning language a week before the pandemic started, so we faced many challenges like trying to hear people through layers of masks and walls of plastic barriers. Ha!  Also, we had difficulty  looking for a conversation partner in the beginning of the pandemic. Despite all that, we were able to learn and I actually really enjoyed the process. With the way my mind works, language feels like a fun puzzle to solve! Its so satisfying when you start to have all the pieces falling together! 

My tips would be to balance 'book study' and conversation/practicing time. Each person is different and will want to spend more time on one versus another, but they are equally important. So if you learn to balance them and not neglect one, it is very beneficial. Every one learns differently, so find what works for you and don't compare yourself. LISTEN. LISTEN. LISTEN. Its even more important than speaking, especially in the beginning. Also, remember that part of language learning is learning culture. Even if you are fluent in the language, but don't take time to observe the culture, you will still miss things. Language and culture go hand in hand. Lastly, don't be afraid to make mistakes because you will make many. Learn to laugh at yourself when you do! Because its way better than being hard on yourself."

Maybe their experiences have prompted you to take your next step on your missions journey. We’d love to talk to you about it!

• Find out how you can become a SEND missionary.

• Explore where and how you can serve with SEND

• Subscribe to Explore News for tips and stories from our missionary panel every month.

Contact a coach button


Subscribe now to stay up to date on all our recent posts, right to your inbox!

Connect with SEND

Start your missions journey by chatting with a SEND Coach.


Sign up for Explore, our monthly newsletter to help you discover your role in missions.