Language Learning for Busy People part 2

In the middle of applying for graduate school on top of my normal workload, I got a message from an Iraqi man who was willing to help me with my Arabic.

I didn’t have time.

I’ve also waited for a few years to find someone to help me with Arabic.

So, I said yes.

We’re doing something I’d never thought of-sending voice messages back and forth on Facebook Messenger. So, he sends me a minute or so in English, I send it back, saying what he said in a more natural way.

I don’t have enough Arabic to understand that yet (I tried!), so I sent him a photo of a page in a picture book, and then recorded myself trying to talk about it. He responded saying what I’d said in much better Arabic, and adding some more. I could understand, because I was looking at the picture he was talking about.

This has been great for my Arabic, and fits into my schedule. If I have a few minutes, I do a little Arabic.

And, I’m slowly making a new friend!

Is it the perfect situation? Nope! But, progress, not perfection, right?

What creative ways have you used technology to build relationships in your new language?

Language Learning for Busy People

Ideally, we would all have several hours a week to spend with a host person in their country. That’s perfect, right?

But, I run into too many people who say that if they can’t learn language in the perfect situation, they can’t learn at all.

Thankfully, that’s a bunch of hooey.

I’m fluent in Spanish. I got that way never ever having been in a Spanish speaking country. (I have now, and it helps my Spanish, but I got there without the perfect situation.)

To the people that say that they can’t learn unless they’re there in a country doing it full time and perfectly, I say…

Progress, not perfection.

Next week you’ll hear how I’m making progress imperfectly in Iraqi Arabic.

My Absolute Favorite Resource for Language Learning

This is hands down the thing that has helped me most in learning a new language.

Drum roll, please…

Yep, a website. But what a website! It doesn’t magically generate flash cards or drill me in grammar, oh no.

It connects me with people. As they say right at the top of their site: “Become fluent in any language while making friends with native speakers.”

That’s priceless.

Check them out!

Don’t say “teach!”

The most important thing when you’re looking for a language parent to help you speak their language is for you to change your language.

What do I mean?

Take words like

teach, study, teacher, learn, class, tutor

completely out of what you say to someone you’re talking to.

Use words like

friend, help, play games, speak, understand



When you say “teach” people immediately think “teacher.” That’s a title that’s earned in a lot of societies, and it’s likely the person you’re talking to won’t have it. It’s also likely better if they don’t. Read why here.

How have you found friends to help you with their language?

The fastest and easiest way to sound more like a native speaker!

When we’re learning a new language, we all have to pause and think in the middle of sentences, right?

So, what do you say while you’re pausing? “Ummmmm,” perhaps?

Is that what host people are saying?


Listen and observe and see what they say when they’re pausing. In some places in Spanish it’s “este,” where I lived in France it was “euh.”

Once you’ve noticed what host people say, say that! It’s amazing how much more native-like you’ll sound, immediately!

So, how do people fill in pauses in your new language?

3 of My Favorite Books This Year–Have You Read Any of These?

Several years ago, my ministry shifted radically from service in Benin, West Africa to equipping missionaries all over the world. Life was changing fast, full of new challenges, and often a jumble of exhilaration, sleepless nights, and a lot of prayer!

One thing that God has used to equip and anchor me through this season was a good book. Actually, there were several!

These are the books I’ve recommended most this year. There are tons of great titles out there, but these were really meaningful to me.

Book 1: The COACH Model for Christian Leaders

Coach and speaker Keith Webb teaches Christian leaders how to create powerful conversations to assist others to solve their own problems, reach goals, and develop their own leadership skills in the process. Whether leaders are working with employees, teenagers, or a colleague living in another city, they’ll find powerful tools and techniques to increase leadership effectiveness.

One of my favorite quotes from this book was “Christian coaches acknowledge the working of the Holy Spirit and trust Him to be guiding and leading the coachee through many different means.” This idea has helped me to entrust the people I help to God, and remember who is really responsible for their success!

If you’d like to get it on Amazon, here’s the link.

Book 2: Prayer: Forty Days of Practice

This unique book guides you to pray in deeper and more authentic ways. The short prayers and thought-provoking imagery, interspersed with contemplative reflections and suggested practices, will stir, inform, and encourage you. 

One of my favorite prayers from this book was “May love be stronger in me than the fear of the pain that comes with caring.” I found it beautiful and challenging!

If you’d like to get it on Amazon, here’s the link.

Book 3: From the Inside Out: Reimagining Mission, Recreating the World

The evolution that has taken place in the world of mission over the last twenty-five years has left many Christians asking brutally honest questions about what we do and why we do it. Are we doing more damage than good? What does it look like to truly love and serve the marginalized in an authentic and effective way? What, actually, is the gospel and is it truly good news?

One of my favorite quotes from this book was, “If a place is treated simply as a cross-cultural experience then we run the risk of commodifying that place for our pleasure, and our ministry there will likely colonize more than liberate. When God plants us in a place, that place becomes our teacher.”

If you’d like to get it on Amazon, here’s the link.

What are some of your favorites? I’d love to hear them — especially if you’re in a season of transition. Leave a comment below!