One of the biggest questions I get is “What does Nora actually do with Wycliffe Bible Translators?”
Here’s a story that illustrates precisely what I do.
Kelly (not her real name), a young missionary in her 30s from Asia moved to Eastern Europe. Before she could start work helping equip workers for Bible translation, she had to learn not one but two languages. She had a few weeks training in language learning, but needed help in moving forward
Believe it or not, most Bible translation projects start with a hopeful missionary and one huge language barrier!
For eight months I worked with Kelly to help her find and train language helpers. As she advanced in language, she needed to learn different language learning techniques, including these. I coached her weekly via Skype to encourage her and troubleshoot her learning. I also made demonstration videos of more advanced techniques for her to implement. She is well on her way to successfully learning both languages. As she succeeds, she will be ready to lead other new missionaries to success in language learning!
The 3 most common questions people ask about why language learning is so important are:
- Why don’t you just teach them English?
- How do you help people when you don't know the language they're learning?
- How long does it take for someone to learn a new language?
Why don’t you just teach them English?
We all have a language that speaks directly to our heart. My French is really good, and I can read the Bible and pray fluently in it. But, when I want to have a conversation with God, I never choose French. I go with English, my heart language. The teams I’m training are working to communicate God’s love in people’s heart languages.
How do you help people when you don’t know the language they’re learning?
I’ve been blessed to learn under my language learning heroes, who have worked out an approach to language learning that works for all languages. So, I train people in the approach, the method, and the techniques that they need. Then they apply it all to their specific language learning situation.
How long does it take someone to learn a new language?
It depends on their goals. If they want to be able to work professionally in their new language, it takes about 1500 hours of time with a language helper. Full time language learning is about 20 hours a week with a language helper, so that takes about a year and a half or two years.
Here’s what I do to help missionaries learn language.
Several months of the year I teach a course in language learning for SIL, Wycliffe’s sister academic organization. This year that means 2 months teaching in Australia, and 3 months in North Dakota. During the courses I do lectures, create helps for language learners, lead language sessions, and meet with students to help them plan for their future language learning. (And I grade papers too, but that’s not fun!)
Coaching language learners by email, Skype, phone calls and Facebook messenger, is something I’m really passionate about. Currently I am coaching several people that are hoping to become language coaches themselves. I am extremely excited that my ministry is beginning to multiply!
I also moderate a discussion group for missionary language coaches and collaborate with other coaches to help their colleagues. I’ve been helping one country in West Africa get a system of language coaching in place, and helping a coach in training develop powerful, interactive presentations for their missionary colleagues.
Meet Kelly, who is growing in her two new languages!
Kelly moved to Eastern Europe to head up orientation and training for new Bible translators. Once she has grown enough into her new languages, she’ll be shepherding new missionaries preparing to work on Bible translation for some of the last groups without Bibles in their language!
Helping Kelly grow in language was a joy!
This is a note that she sent me:
“Thank you so so much, for you've been a great encouragement to me, not to give up when language learning is too difficult. I will always remember you saying, "it is not perfection but progress" that is important when learning a language. I'm thankful for the ways you showed me how to make my learning session a lot of fun. The materials you've sent are very helpful, for instance the video of a lady learning English, the picture books etc. They were very helpful for my language helper to see and to make her understand the way a learner like me can really learn the language.
Aside from language learning side you have taught me to keep my faith in the Lord who sent me here, and remind me to keep a close walk with Him by spending personal time with Him. I am so truly grateful for each prayer you prayed after our Skype meetings, and God is always faithful to answer.”
I am so thankful for partners that make it possible for me to help people like Kelly share God’s story with people in their own languages.