We have been without phone for some time, so I have not been able to post. The phone came back up a few days ago, but only lasted about a day. It has just come back up today.
One of the most mentally challenging things for the missionary is learning a new language. (At least in my opinion.) Especially, if you have only have known one language your whole life. There is a joke I read while studying language: What do you call someone who speaks two languages? Bilingual. What do you call someone who speaks three languages? Trilingual. What do you call someone who speaks one language? American.
Before coming here, I was one of those Americans who only knew one language. After all, in America, English is all you need. (Too be honest my English was pretty poor, as most of you can tell from reading my blog.) I have for the most part completed my language study for the Tok Pisin language. This language is a Melanesian pidgin. A pidgin is a language where there are less then 1 million people who speak it as a first language. Actually, the Tok Pisin should be reclassified. There are more than 1 million now who speak Tok Pisin as a first language. Over 5 million speak the language altogether, but not all of those speak it as a first language.
When I first arrived, I thought, I could learn the Tok Pisin in about six months. I heard the stories of missionaries who did just that. (The Tok Pisin is not a difficult language to learn if one already knows English.) Well six months into my time here, I was far from fluent. As a matter of fact I was a horrible tok pisin speaker. I grew very frustrated. After the first year, I was still struggling with it, but it was improving. All together it took me a little over two years to become fluent in the language. I am able to think in the language without having to translate all the words in my head now. I can also understand/comprehend it well by someone who speaks it very fast. That took quite some time though. I fail to see how anyone, who previously only knew one language, could become fluent in six months. However, God gives each person different abilities, so for some perhaps it does not take as much work, or perhaps they just have better study habits than I.
I have now begun learning my third language, Patpatar. This is a village language, so it will be much more difficult to learn. However, already having learned another language, I know a lot of the do’s and don’ts of learning a language. (There are over 700 different languages here in PNG. On the little island where I live, there are over 20 different languages. This is not counting the different dialects of each language.) I have been pleased with the progress I am making already. I have only been studying it now for two weeks. The Lord is really helping with the pronunciation. They say things COMPLETELY different. My mouth and tongue have to learn a whole new way of talking. All the “r” sounds are rolled. It is not the “ur” sound that we make in English. I have never been able to roll my r’s, but the Lord is blessing and I am having success at it.
My lesson today was the phrase, “I want to preach the Word of God.” In Tok Pisin this would be, “ mi laik autim tok bilong God.” In Patpatar, “Iau warra tange ra nianga tane Kaloa.” (phonetically)
Please pray the Lord will enable me to learn the Patpatar language fluently and quickly. We have a furlough mid 2007, and I would like to be fairly fluent before then.