When I studied abroad in Spain as a college student, I was one of the few students in my cohort that enjoyed using Spanish as much as possible. The others would talk with each other in English. Working that much harder to operate in a foreign language, I often felt totally exhausted at the end of the day. I was happy to be speaking so much Spanish. But every once in awhile, I would enjoy a conversation in English and it would be a breath of relief. Because it was easy. The words came out of my mouth without any thought and in those few breaths, I felt like I was at home. I felt like someone was listening to the language of my heart.
As a Christian we are strangers in this world and sometimes things can feel off, like they won’t every be fully put to right until we are in heaven. Maybe God was priming my heart to understand this truth when he gave me those easy, friendly, welcoming conversations in English, my native tongue.
So if you are a Christian and you are studying a foreign language, I commend you. If you can be that voice of welcome, of love, of home — that winsome hint of heaven — then I pray that you will be equipped with tools to help you along your journey. I pray for your teachers, that they will engage you such that it’s easy and fun, and for them to have wisdom to teach you well. I pray that you will be challenged in a good way. I pray that you will be equipped to use what you learn to serve God. I pray that what you learn will not just be knowledge in your head but something that equips you to grow in relationship with others who are different but also bear God’s image.
Perhaps when we interact with those that are different from us, whether from speaking a different language or in another way, more about God and our true home in heaven is revealed than what we knew before.
I want to conclude this letter with the Spanish phrase, ¡Ánimo! This phrase can be translated as “Come on!” or “Let’s go!” but has a sense of encouragement to it, of good mood, of good spirits. Learning a foreign language is new and different and may be quite hard at times, but keep to it! It’s good for the brain, it’s good for relationships, and it can help you serve God. Whether you learn a little or a lot, it’s something to be proud of. I’m proud of you for taking this step! Way to go!