When I was in junior high school and high school I took French. I even took French during college.
But I never learned to speak French. Oh, I tried to, and goodness knows I had excellent teachers. I simply never achieved any level of proficiency in that language.
I came away from those academic pursuits frustrated, and doubly so when I began to pursue my calling in life to serve as a cross-cultural missionary who lived in another culture. Obviously if I never learned to speak a language I would have to fulfill that calling in English. Nothing wrong with that per se, but I hoped to be able to share the most important Message ever in the language of those I lived among.
While I lived in Africa (4 years) there was no problem, because the parts of Africa I lived in were English speaking and, besides, I only lived in South Africa for two years and then Zimbabwe for two more. Language learning wasn’t required.
But when we left Zimbabwe in late 1991, and headed to Taiwan in the summer of 1992, learning a language in order to communicate publicly not just for daily living but as a public speaker (preacher) took on a whole new importance. If I could not communicate in Mandarin, I would not be able to communicate well to lots of people.
We arrived in June 1992, and started language study in our second week in Taipei. Our language school was built upon a model of full immersion, meaning we did all learning from the first day in a one-on-one setting.
One teacher. One student. One language. Not English. There. Was. No. Where. To. Hide.
Was it intimidating? Absolutely. We struggled to even verbalized sounds at first, much less speak complete sentences. The very first sentence we learned was “I am learning to speak Chinese; I only speak a little”. That one sentence took 3 weeks to learn (if I recall correctly).
The next sentence we learned was “What is this thing called in Chinese?” which enabled us to practice in the streets of the city.
And practice we did. Every day. Our homework was to go out, after 3 hours of one on one study, to practice what we had just learned in class.
It was an excellent way to learn. But what is the connection to Rosetta Stone? Pay attention to next week’s post on more of the mechanics of Rosetta Stone.
Have you learned to speak another language? How did you do it?