Well, like we shared on Tuesday, it is our first week of language school! We are diving into all things French (I’m listening to a TV show in French on Netflix while I type this) and can’t wait to see how God grows us during the next year-ish.
When we mention language school to people, they often have a lot of questions… but I’ll get to those in a second.
First, I want to share why we see language school as a ministry in and of itself.
Intentionally investing in learning French is one of the best ways to prepare for ministry in Togo. If we can’t speak to the people, we can’t share the Gospel. We can’t make disciples. We can’t build relationships. Learning French is the first step to an effective ministry in Togo.
Our time in language school also allows us to learn how to minister to our kids and family in another language. Soon (next week, I think), we’ll try to primarily use French at home so that our kids can start to learn French, too. It will also help Allen and me practice going through daily life in another language.
Teaching our kids French prepares them to make friends and understand the culture better, too. Engaging in this ministry now helps them be prepared for their own kinds of ministry in the future.
Okay, so that’s just a piece of language school as ministry. Now, onto those common questions…
- Why spend a whole year-ish learning another language?
- Why not serve in a country where they speak English?
- Why not just learn French in Togo while we’re starting ministry?
- If they speak tribal languages in Togo, why aren’t you just learning one of those languages?
- Are you getting a job during language school?
- Why are you in Tennessee to learn French
Great questions. And today we’re sharing the “why” behind language school.
Why spend a whole year? Well, that’s about long it takes. ABWE has high standards for language learning, and we’re expected to be at about a middle school level in speaking and comprehension before we arrive in Togo. Though we wish we could, we can’t just snap our fingers and be fluent. So we’ll invest the time: a year-ish to be exact-ish.
Why not serve in an English-speaking country? Simply put, that isn’t where God called us. Besides, did you know that if you speak English and French, you can communicate with about 90% of the people in Africa? Isn’t that amazing?
Why not learn French in Togo? There hasn’t been a lot of success with long-term missionaries learning French in Togo. Most who attempt it need some additional training in Canada or France to really experience “freedom” in the language. So, rather than settle in Togo just to leave again, we’re learning French before we get there.
Why not just learn a tribal language? Togo’s official language is French, so to do any legal, governmental, or other important paperwork, we’ll need to know French. Renewing passports, visiting the local clinic, shopping in city… all of that will require French. We will seek to learn the local tribal language also, once we arrive on the field.
Are you getting a job? Our job right now is language school. We are in class for about 15 hours a week then have homework for another 15 hours or so per week. I know, that may not sound like much. There are people who work for 40+ hours per week; I used to be one of those people. For years (literally, years), we worked round the clock trying to get to this point. And I’ll be honest: we are very excited to be at a point where “just” learning French is our focus. However, in addition to learning French, I’m doing some consulting communications work; I’m homeschooling our girls in preschool; we’re potty training Hudson; and we’re trying to plug into the local church.
Why Tennessee? While we were here last fall, we saw God start to open some doors for us to return here for our online language learning. Time zones better aligned, we had connections to French speakers, etc. So our courses are being done here in Tennessee online through a program in Quebec, Canada. If borders open, we will move up there. If they don’t, we’ll do the whole program here before heading straight to Togo.
So that’s it. We’re diving into French. We’ll share a “Day in the Life” post later so people can see what that looks like. In the mean time, à bientôt!