Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Reminder from a 10-year-old

As with anything new, learning another language is exciting at first. Mimicking the unique sounds of the new language, learning the first few vocabulary words, picking out a word or two from a conversation and having a sense of new found knowledge are all exhilarating things . . . at first.

As time wears on, the thrill of learning another language fades and each aspect of the process starts to resemble something else.  Inability to form sounds correctly, failure to recall a vocabulary word, a feeling of helplessness when you cannot make someone understand you- all of these can be very frustrating.  The student finally realizes that language learning is less like an adventure and more like old-fashioned hard work.

About three month into our Russian lessons, I finally came face to face with the difficulty of the task.  Things became more and more maddening until the Lord allowed me to learn a simple lesson from a 10-year-old.

About the time Russian was overpowering me, we had begun helping a lady from church in her English lessons.  She taught the class and we were there to help the students with their pronunciation.  One week, the beginner class came to the question words in English- who? what? where? etc.  The teacher had us begin saying the words in English and the students would answer with the corresponding word in Romanian.

This back-and-forth exercise grew in intensity when I kept asking the one word a 10-year-old student kept getting wrong.  She was determined to answer each question correctly and to answer them as quickly as possible.  Each incorrect answer simply fed her competiveness to not get it wrong the next time.

I needed that little circumstance more than I realized.  As I thought about it later, I came to the conclusion that I was no longer enjoying learning Russian.   All I could see were the obstacles.  I failed to see the excitement of it.  By simply having fun learning, a 10-year-old taught me a lesson I greatly needed.

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