Now, as much fun as filling your birthday weekend with amazingly-fun-and-random activities is, you inevitably have to come back to the real world at some point.
And I was brought back to the real world today, when I realised just how much Japanese study I had to catch up on following a few days of doing not-a lot-more-than-the-bare-minimum.
Hours. And hours.
And some more hours.
Now, I love Japanese.
I really do.
It was one of the conversations I had with God when I started learning just over a year ago.
Something along these lines… (I actually journalled this!)
‘God, I’m so incredibly rubbish at learning languages, but if You are really asking me to, then I will. But You will have to keep me motivated, and make it so that I’m not completely rubbish.’
What a wonderfully articulate prayer! (that’s sarcasm by the way ;-))
But, God has been faithful to what He promised, and I have continued my weak attempts to make headway into a seeminglyat-times-unconquerable mountain of kanji, grammar, and pronunciation.
Now, a good friend of mine is learning Mandarin at the moment (note that quite a lot of my wonderfully-crazy-God-inspired-friends have a heart for some part of Asia!), and over the weekend we were talking about how much language study to do each day, and the types of activities that motivate, inspire, and well… actually work!
In the absence of actually being in Japan, I use lots of the resources that the Tofugu guys have produced (Textfugu was my life-savingly-inspirational-starter-text book, and Wanikani is seriously the best kanji learning programme I have ever seen!), and muddle my way through a daily routine of audio flashcards, sentence structure, and writing practice. I blog in Japanese on Lang-8 (if you’re learning a language this really is a must!!), I read my morning Psalms from a bilingual Bible, I listen to Japanese podcasts, sermons, music and anything else I can get my hands on, and I daily, sometimes painstakingly slowly, start to see things remain in my brain. I try and study for a minimum of 2 hours a day. It’s now a habit that follows my morning time with God, and fits in before evening prayer.
And I am committed.
But more than that.
I love it.
I really do.
And I often find myself completely absorbed in the Presence of God and most at peace whilst simultaneously streaming the prayer room and writing in Japanese practice.
It’s one of my favourite Saturday-morning-Starbucks-pass-times.
And a year in, my reading and writing is better than my speaking. By far.
My kanji knowledge and vocab is pretty good, my written grammar is ok, my listening is improving, and my speaking is terrible.
Hopefully the summer will offer some great opportunities to completely embarrass myself there and push the boat out! (One of the couples I am staying with in Tokyo are absolutely convinced that it will push me out of my comfort zone more when Japanese people try to speak bad English to me… I’m not so convinced!)
But today, whilst I was catching up on hours of vocabulary reviews, it hit me how many parallels there are between learning a language and persevering in faith.
Firstly, you measure language learning in years, not months.
And definitely not weeks and days.
They say (who knows who ‘they’ are?!) that it takes between 5 and 8 years to gain fluency in a language. So right at the start, if you’re serious about learning a language, you know you’re in it for the long haul.
This is no quick short term win scenario. This is learning for the duration.
And knowing that you are going to be a student for a really long time.
Yes, the daily discipline is important and vital, but the fruit often comes in the journey and the process.
Just like faith.
If we measure our faith in days and weeks, it’s easy to get disheartened or lose vision.
Yes, our daily walk with God is where this stuff is lived out, but we need to see our Christian walk as having a longevity that will last the decades, not the next six months.
Our daily steps are taking us onward on a long-lasting journey that starts now and doesn’t ever end.
And we’re not in this for the quick wins, we’ve sold everything to buy the field that contains the pearl of great price.
Secondly, language learning feels a bit like climbing a mountain with a number of plateaus and peaks on the way up.
You climb, you struggle, and then you get to a plateau where you feel like you’ve made it.
You enjoy the view.
You celebrate the success.
You rejoice that you’re getting somewhere.
And then you look up and realise that there’s a whole other peak ahead of you to climb.
Just like faith.
And that can sound a bit uninspiring for those people who don’t understand. Just like language learning is simply bonkers-crazy for those people who don’t have a heart for the country you’re mad about.
But the Truth is, Holy Spirit is the One climbing with us.
And just as He allows us the moments of enjoying the view and resting for a season, so He is the One who lifts our vision to the next climb.
I like to think of it as the next adventure.
So, for me, language learning has a lot of comparisons to faith.
But the journey is exciting.
And full of views.
But only ones we face with Him.
And for Him
God doesn’t call and not equip.
And for that, I will be forever thankful