We recently heard about a very humbling experience here in language school. One of those experiences that will be told for years as veteran missionaries share their language woes, and their “joys” of learning a new language, with those just entering ministry on a foreign field. In simpler terms, the brief story I’m about to share will certainly “preach.” Surely there are some life lessons in it, and I can’t help but imagine the first time this story will make its way into a teaching moment.
As we’ve expressed before, language learning can certainly be a humbling experience. Try to imagine yourself in the shoes of someone asking the Lord, in all His mercy, to forgive our “pescados” (fishes) rather than our “pecados” (sins). Or what about the guy that when teaching a Bible class described Christ’s arrival in Jerusalem prior to being crucified in a vivid twist of scriptural content. In this case, the young teacher (yours truly) painted a picture of Christ arriving in Jerusalem “as” (por) a donkey rather than more accurately saying that Christ arrived riding “on” (en) a donkey. Of course, there are the frequent mistakes we make using articles (los, las) incorrecting and ultimately calling men, women and women, men. These mistakes certainly get some raised eyebrows but I think most Spanish-speakers are used to this by now.
One of the best boo-boos, however, may have just recently taken place. A fellow student of ours recently decided to make a donut run prior to class one morning and quite likely gave the young cashier the biggest laugh of her day. Our dear friend slightly confused a word pronunciation that had quite an impact. You see, in this new language we are tackling, “dona” is a Costa Rican Spanish word for donut (I’m sure you can see the English influence). By way of comparison, “doña” (pronouced with a ‘ya’ sound like ‘doenya’) means something quite different: a woman. So imagine the laughs and embarrasment when our friend asked for “dos doñas, una negra y la otra blanca” (two women, one black and the other white) while trying to order donuts! Can you imagine? In all honestly, I think both the missionary and the cashier still must blush when they see each other!
Amazingly, however, we’re still here chipping away at this new tongue. Seems you’ve certainly got to be convicted about God’s call in your life and you’ve certainly got to have a sense of humor.
May God bless us, and all the other poor souls learning a new language, as we trust Him to one day allow us to share His story with His Spanish-speaking children. What a challenge this is proving to be; but, what a blessing for us to be called by our Lord. Even amid all our embarrassing stories, I couldn’t imagine any other way.